The luck of Reilly is caught in a web

Of­ten in­jured de­fence­man is ready to re­turn to Bull­dogs lineup

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - Tpecoskie@thes­pec.com 905-526-3368 | @Te­ri­atTheSpec

The luck of Reilly? It’s about to get bet­ter, he hopes. Reilly Webb is a big, mo­bile de­fender from Stoney Creek and the most-in­jury-prone player on the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs ros­ter. He’s get­ting ready to make a come­back. An­other one. And he’s con­vinced it’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent this time.

“My shoul­der — I call it my bionic shoul­der — it just feels re­ally sta­ble,” says the 17-year-old. “Bet­ter than it’s ever felt.”

A se­cond-round pick of the Bull­dogs in 2015, Webb should be mid­way through a suc­cess­ful sopho­more cam­paign and on the radar of NHL scouts. In­stead, he has a mere nine games in the On­tario Hockey League un­der his belt.

Here’s why. At a prac­tice at the start of last sea­son, he took a cross-check from a team­mate that sep­a­rated his shoul­der — a dis­lo­ca­tion that side­lined him for nearly three months. He re­turned in late De­cem­ber, only to slice his an­kle open — with his own skate — three weeks later.

It was a nasty, fes­ter­ing lac­er­a­tion that re­quired nine stitches and six weeks to heal.

At the time, Webb ac­knowl­edged his ter­ri­ble for­tune and said he would just have to work hard over the sum­mer and come back bet­ter this year. And he did.

Af­ter suit­ing up for one game with the Bull­dogs last March, the six-foot-three, 201-pound blue­liner spent his off­sea­son work­ing out with a trainer, play­ing in a lo­cal four-on-four league and en­dur­ing al­most daily phys­io­ther­apy ses­sions. “I had a busy sum­mer,” he says. “I was feel­ing good. And I don’t know what hap­pened.”

Ac­tu­ally, he does. In train­ing camp this sea­son, he took an­other awk­ward hit and blew out his shoul­der. The same one.

At that point, Webb says he knew he was in trou­ble. “You don’t want it to keep com­ing out, so I had to say, OK, surgery now.”

In mid-Septem­ber, he went un­der the knife — a pro­ce­dure in which docs tacked down his labrum, which is the piece of rub­bery tis­sue that helps keep the ball of the joint in place. Then, he spent the next 60 days with his arm in a sling.

It hasn’t been fun, he admits af­ter prac­tice Wed­nes­day — his first full-con­tact work­out in months. But he ac­tu­ally thinks he’s bet­ter for it.

“I’ve had a lot of time in the gym, a lot of time to work out and just de­velop my game and make it bet­ter even though I haven’t been able to play,” he says.

He’s also spent a lot of time with ath­letic ther­a­pist, J.P. La­ciak, who he calls the “key” to his suc­cess.

“He’s been work­ing with me ev­ery day do­ing re­hab on it and work­ing out with me in the gym, so I’d like to thank him for that,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Bull­dogs head coach John Gru­den, Webb could re­turn to the lineup in as lit­tle as three weeks — as long as there are no set­backs. He says he’s a great kid with a very good per­son­al­ity and the team is “real for­tu­nate, real ex­cited to have him back out there.”

“It’s go­ing to take time,” he adds. “But he brings some­thing to the ta­ble. He’s got a re­ally good stick, he skates well for a big guy and he’s been try­ing to keep him­self in shape. He’s just kind of a sand­pa­per-type player. He does his job and he’s not easy to play against, so I think he can def­i­nitely help this team.” Webb thinks so, too. Fin­gers crossed. “I kind of feel like there’s a dark cloud around me, but hope­fully my luck is chang­ing,” he said.

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Reilly Webb is get­ting ready for yet an­other come­back from in­jury.

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