Barton Hopes for Redemption
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
Chris Barton had finally made it. Since he and the rest of his classmates were freshmen, their goal was to play for a Hockey East championship.
But the day that he finally skated on the TD Garden ice will go down as one of the toughest days of his hockey career.
That's because last Thursday, as Merrimack skated in preparation for the Hockey East championship, Barton was trying everything he could to work through a hip injury suffered the weekend before during Game 2 of the Hockey East quarterfinals against Maine.
About halfway through the 75 minute ice session, Barton was in a sweat suit, watching from the bench.
Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy skated over and that's when Barton told him the news: he wouldn't be able to go.
"Last Thursday was one of the toughest days of my career telling coach I couldn't go," he said. "Friday morning I tried to help wherever I could and I was obviously excited but I was disappointed that I couldn't be out there with them. It was tough to have to watch but we played really well."
Barton watched the weekend with teammates on the ninth floor of TD Garden. It's not something he's accustomed to. In fact, he had played every game for the Warriors since his arrival in 2007 until a minor injury in December forced him to miss one game before Christmas break.
On Saturday night, after a 5-3 loss to Boston College in the title game, he was back on the Garden ice, accepting the runner-up trophy with Karl Stollery and fellow co-captain Adam Ross. The looks on the faces of all three made it clear that second place wasn't an option.
It only made the sting of not being able to play worse.
It's tough for the senior to even explain the injury, which occurred on the first shift of that March 12 game.
"It was a really stupid play along the boards where I got cross checked a little bit," he said, "and I just felt something."
Barton went to the locker room and returned a few minutes later, trying to play through the pain, even taking a shift before being shut down for the night.
"I tried to keep going through it," he said. "There was just no way. But I wanted to stay on the bench. It was our last game at Lawler and I wanted to stay on the bench and be a part of it and cheer the guys on."
Barton's days of late have been filled with rehab.
"It starts with ice and stim (treatments)," he said. "Then later you can move to heat as it heals a little bit. You just try to rehab it, bike, do whatever you can ... I've been skating about a half hour each day."
He has been skating too, taking it one day at a time.
"(Wednesday) was the best day I've felt," he said after Wednesday's practice. "We have a few more days to figure it out, playing on Saturday is obviously a bonus, and we'll see. I can't wait and I really hope I can play."
Dennehy hopes to have his 100-point scorer alongside linemates Jeff Velleca and Joe Cucci when the puck drops on Saturday.
"It's that last little bit," Dennehy said. "He has enough time that he can bridge that gap. I told him that he's penciled in until he's a no-go but it's right up to game time."