CANTON There was good news for the St. Lawrence University hockey team on Wednesday as senior captain Kyle Flanagan returned to the ice.
Flanagan, who had been sidelined since last Tuesday when he had surgery to remove his appendix, skated with his teammates during an evening practice as the Saints prepare for their ECAC Hockey first-round playoff series against Colgate this weekend.
Its very good news, St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. Its probably the best case scenario we can have at this point.
A Hobey Baker Award candidate as well as junior linemate Greg Carey, Flanagan received the green light earlier in the day when he visited his doctor.
Its great to be back, the Canton native said before Wednesdays practice, wearing a yellow non-contact jersey. It was tough to watch last weekend obviously the guys missed me and I missed them. But now Im healed and ready to go.
Flanagan, however, hasnt been yet been cleared for game action, and his status to return for the home playoff series against Colgate at Appleton Arena is being treated on a day-to-day basis.
Hes OK to skate to see how he feels, Carvel said of Flanagan, who nationally is tied for third in assists (28) and points per game (1.35) and stands third in assists per game (.90). Well go through the paces here for two days and see if there are any repercussions. He says hes feeling good, so were optimistic.
They said there was no reason that I couldnt go this weekend, said Flanagan, who has posted 42 points and 28 assists in 31 games this season. Its obviously great news, but at the same time Im still taking small steps I was out for a week and I still have to be a little cautious.
After not traveling with team in its regular-season weekend finale this past weekend, Flanagan rejoined his teammates on Monday during a team workout. He spent some time working out on a stationary bike and had a short non-practice skate on Tuesday.
It would be nice to have him out there this weekend, Carey said. But his health is the most important thing right now. But he seems chipper and he seems in good shape. ... guys then to heal pretty fast when they want to get back in the lineup, so well see what happens.
Flanagan entered the hospital Feb. 26 in the morning, and had the successful procedure later that evening.
Im one of those kind of guys who just goes with the flow, Flanagan said. I cant control what I cant control, so fortunately I was able to check in early at the hospital. The appendicitis wasnt too inflamed and it wasnt close to rupturing. But at the same time if we let it go, it could have. The timing was frustrating, but at the same time, Im back for the playoffs.
Flanagan is happy to be back on the ice and is hopeful hell return to action on Friday. Im playing, he said. But well know for sure by game time.
Well have to see how it goes, Carvel added. Its day to day, and even if he does play Friday, you dont know if hell be available for Saturday. Its completely unknown at this point.
Sixth-seeded St. Lawrence needs Flanagan back, although his teammates insist theyll be ready for the best-of-3 playoff series against 11th-seeded Colgate, with Game 1 and Game 2 at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with Game 3, if necessary, on Sunday also at 7.
Hopefully this will be redemption for all of our guys who are back, said Carey, who leads the country in goals (26) and power-play goals (12) and points (48). And its a chance for our freshmen to experience what its like having a playoff series at home. It should be a lot of fun this weekend.
Without Flanagan, the Saints were swept 5-1 at Union and 4-1 at Rensselaer.
It was a rough weekend, Carvel said. We played two good teams on the road and didnt play as well as were capable of. Carey was sick and Kyle wasnt there, so we were far from a full team.
St. Lawrence, which had hopes of earning a first-round bye, instead finished in a tie for fifth-place with Dartmouth, with the Big Green getting the fifth seed via a tiebreaker.
This is the Saints highest finish in ECAC Hockey regular-season play since the 2009-10 team was fifth. St. Lawrence went on to place fourth in the league tournament.
We love playing at home, Flanagan said. Even though we didnt play our best hockey last weekend, were still going into this series confident and we feel were still playing our best hockey of the year.
Last year, St. Lawrence went on a run in February by generating a five-game winning streak to secure eighth place in the league and home ice in the first round, only to be swept by Dartmouth in two games.
This season starting in mid-January, the Saints went lost only once over an 11-game stretch at 8-1-2, which included a six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2) as well as winning four straight games through Feb. 22.
In the ECAC I dont care who youre playing or where youre playing if youre not at the top of your game youre not going to have success, Carvel said. Hopefully we learned some lessons from last year.
Since then, St. Lawrence has lost its past three games and was outscored 9-2 in its past two games without Flanagan. The playoffs are a new season, Carvel said. Everybody is going to be reenergized and has to be ready.
St. Lawrence is 1-0-1 against Colgate this season, including a 4-2 victory in Hamilton on Nov. 30, and a 3-3 tie at Appleton Arena on Feb. 2.
We know Colgate plays a real fast game, Carvel said. So we have to be ready to move with speed and really want the puck and theyve got very good special teams. ... I like the fact that we can play either a physical or high-tempo game were capable of playing either style.
Its crunch time now, either we win or go home, Flanagan said. Playoff time is an exciting time.
Sportswriter Chris Fitz Gerald covers St. Lawrence University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.