May 6, 2014
TORONTO- Andrew MacWilliam has put his concussion issue behind him and now has his focus turned to the Calder Cup playoffs.
The 24-year-old defenceman had been out of the lineup since Mar. 30 because of a concussion suffered after hitting his head on the ice in a game against the Abbotsford Heat. But he returned for Game 3 against the Milwaukee Admirals and didn’t look out of place.
“It’s been a long process,” MacWilliam said about the time it took to recover. “It took me a while to adjust a bit in the first period, but it felt good to be back.”
MacWilliam missed the final nine games of the regular season and the first two of the post-season while recovering. In that time he worked with strength and conditioning coach Mark Fitzgerald and was skating at practice within two days of the incident—in a non-contact jersey. MacWilliam said there were no setbacks and that he and the club chose to take their time with the healing process.
“You kind of got to be a little sensitive (with concussions),” said MacWilliam. “I worked hard with Fitzy to get healthy.”
MacWilliam was back in a pairing with Korbinian Holzer against the Admirals and made his impact felt in the second period when he took a run at Milwaukee forward Calle Jarnkrok, who cut across the Marlies blue line with his head down. While Jarnkrok was able to get his head up at the last second and avoid injury, the hit was still large enough to enrage the Admirals on the ice and lead to some pushing after the whistle.
“I think the Andrew MacWilliam hit in open ice was a turning point,” said Marlies head coach Steve Spott.
“I just kind of caught him with his head down coming through the middle,” added MacWilliam. “I talked about timing before, maybe I was a little off but I got enough of him.”
With it being the 6-foot-2, 226 pound blue liner’s first altercation since the head injury, Spott admitted he was concerned. But after seeing that MacWilliam came out on top he was more than relieved.
“I took a gasp of breath because I was hoping he was going to be OK,” said Spott. “But that tells you the type of player he is. He saw it, he took it and thankfully he survived it.”
While Toronto faired well without the Calgary native in the lineup for over a month, his physical presence will be needed for the second round against the Chicago Wolves, which starts this Friday in Chicago.
“I think (physical play) is something I have to bring back to my game,” said MacWilliam. “It basically is my game.”