by Matthew Conyers/CHN Reporter
ORONO, Maine Let's get this out of the way early.
Maine junior Keenan Hopson is quiet. Actually, that's an understatement. Hopson is back-of-the-classroom, don't-move-in-the-movie-theater quiet.
Having said that, it comes as no surprise that Hopson is tight-lipped in regards to his playing time this week in the national semifinal against the Michigan State Spartans. After missing both of last week's NCAA East regional games against St. Cloud State and Massachusetts due to an emergency appendectomy on March 20, Hopson is just trying to establish himself on the ice again.
"It's better than 50-50," said Hopson of his odds of playing against the Spartans. "I'm pretty sure I'll be playing. Just right now, I probably wouldn't be able to go, but a few more days definitely. Every day it's getting a lot better."
For Hopson, just being able to think about hockey is a plus. The sudden appendectomy took Hopson totally by surprise and clearly shook him up.
"I just went to the hospital and really wasn't thinking about hockey," said Hopson. "I was in pretty good pain, so I just tried to take it easy."
Since that day, which began with Hopson having a slight stomach ache, the forward of few words has been careful not to overexert himself.
"Everything feels the same, except when I make a quick movement," said Hopson. "The first week I was kind of just getting over it, now that I'm healthy and everything, I just want it out of my system."
Saturday, Hopson took to the ice for the first time since he was saddled with the appendix problem. Although unwilling to fully commit to the Frozen Four semifinal, he does want to come out playing 100 percent for his team.
"I'm just trying to be normal out there," said Hopson. "I don't want to skate restrictive. I want to do all the movements I would do any game."
Having already seen what his team is capable of without him, Hopson is quick to note that he doesn't want to slow them down.
"I don't want to handicap the team, if I'm not playing 100 percent I will be really hurting the team," said Hopson. "I really want to see how much I push it."
Still, Hopson — who has seven goals and 15 assists in 37 games — is eager to give the Black Bears another comeback story, 11 days after Big Ben Bishop stole the limelight with his triumphant return.
"It was kind of weird — I wanted to be out there so bad," said Hopson. "It was good to see them win, but I wanted to be a part of it."
"I'm just hoping to get one more crack. What better time than the Frozen Four?"
If Hopson does make it back to the lineup, he will likely be slotted into the defensive end of the depth chart. It's a move that Hopson made in the Hockey East quarterfinals and one he is comfortable with.
"Growing up, every other year I switched," said Hopson. "It was only when I went to the university that I really played consecutive years at forward. I like the position."
Early in his career, Hopson was approached by head coach Tim Whitehead about making the move. However, it wasn't until the UMass series that the Black Bears went through with it.
Either way, defense or offense, Hopson is ready to get back to helping the Black Bears on the ice and not in the heart-warming human relations department.