CRYSTAL LAKE – Prairie Ridge defenseman Keenan Zordan was up and walking without suffering a headache for the first time since Valentine’s Day.
At least the Wolves had that to cheer about at Saturday’s senior night celebration at the Crystal Ice House, because not a lot else went in their favor.
No. 12-seeded Prairie Ridge only managed to get two shots past Neuqua Valley goalie Brad Neal as the No. 22 Wildcats won, 5-2, in a first-round game of the AHAI Blackhawk Cup Red Division state tournament.
Zordan, a senior, wore his jersey and a neck brace after suffering a bruised spinal cord and dural tear of his C-6 vertebra against Stevenson on Feb. 14. He spent five days in the intensive care unit at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
The play occurred in the second overtime of the Wolves’ 4-3 triple-overtime victory over the Patriots. Zordan may have saved that Illinois High School Hockey League Scholastic Division game when he dived to knock the puck away from an attacking skater.
“He got behind me and I was going full-speed when I dove to knock the puck away,” Zordan said. “I was going head-first and turned so I hit the boards back-first. At first, I couldn’t feel anything from my neck down. Then, slowly, the feeling started coming back. I’m glad to be up walking around.”
Zordan still has a weakened grip and hypersensitivity in his right hand and will have to undergo some physical therapy, but he hopes to return for lacrosse later this spring.
“That was really scary,” Prairie Ridge coach Rick Rewiako said. “I went to the ICU to see him. That hurt our defense because you’re replacing a senior with a freshman [Jake Carpentier]. I’m glad [Zordan] is here walking around.”
Tom Zordan, Keenan’s father, said doctors predicted a 100 percent recovery for his son after some time.
“The team and the coaches have been very supportive,” Tom Zordan said. “So has Stevenson High School.”
Zordan was there to celebrate the last home game with his classmates, although the mood was not all that festive after the game.
The Wolves (28-22-6) got two early power-play goals from Sean Van Damme and Gavin Tarazi, but Neuqua (20-26-6) answered quickly both times, then took a 3-2 lead late in the first period.
Neal turned away 33 shots on goal as the Wildcats moved on in the tournament.
“We started out playing as a team, when we do that, we can beat anybody,” Rewiako said. “We played bad. I think we’re the better team, but [Neuqua] wanted it more than us. They had really good goaltending and he deserves a lot of credit.”
Tarazi thought the Wolves hurt themselves, particularly in the second period, with penalties.
“We outplayed them, but we just couldn’t finish,” Tarazi said. “We worked hard, but we spent too much time in the box. They’re a pretty streaky team, just like us. They’ve beaten some of the state’s best teams.”