Back with a flour­ish

De­rian Plouffe and Tan­ner Lom­snes suf­fered ca­reerthreat­en­ing in­juries last sea­son, but the pair per­se­vered and re­turned

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS -

puck broke a rib and a bro­ken rib sliced his liver.

Both could have walked away from hockey and most would have given an un­der­stand­ing nod. Plouffe was even en­cour­aged by a few doc­tors to hang up his skates. But nei­ther was ready to give up the sport. Not just yet.

A year later, Lom­snes and Plouffe are back on the ice for Ni­a­gara and key com­po­nents to one of the most dra­matic pro­gram turn­arounds in col­lege hockey this sea­son.

Plouffe, a se­nior from Shawville, Que­bec, leads

Ni­a­gara

Ni­a­gara with 19 points (nine goals, 10 as­sists) while Lom­snes, a ju­nior from Red Deer, Al­berta, leads the team with 12 goals, in­clud­ing four on the power play.

They have helped lead a resur­gence for the Pur­ple Ea­gles. Af­ter win­ning just 18 games com­bined over the past three sea­sons, Ni­a­gara is in first place in At­lantic Hockey with an 8-2-1 con­fer­ence mark, a 9-5-1 over­all record, and a spot in the na­tional rank­ings at No. 20.

“I think that’s one of the things that sep­a­rates hockey from a lot of sports is the men­tal­ity piece of how com­mit­ted these guys are to re­turn­ing and fight­ing through is­sues that might shut other peo­ple down,” said first-year Ni­a­gara coach Ja­son Lam­mers. “I think that’s in­dica­tive of our sport but more im­por­tantly of those two play­ers.

“The beau­ti­ful thing for me is if I didn’t know of their in­juries, I would have no idea they had been hurt. They have not missed a beat. They’re not one bit in­tim­i­dated by any of it. They’ve played hard. They’re a huge part of why we’re hav­ing the suc­cess that we are.”

Be­fore they could help with suc­cess on the ice, with turn­ing the cul­ture of Ni­a­gara hockey around, Plouffe and Lom­snes had to find ways to turn them­selves around fac­ing both phys­i­cal and men­tal chal­lenges.

“I was bedrid­den for a cou­ple of months,” said Lom­snes, who had to stay be­hind in Colorado af­ter the in­jury. Barry Pat­ter­son, the father of his team­mate Kevin, stayed with him as his team went back to Western New York.

“I didn’t re­ally know what hap­pened,” Lom­snes said. “I thought it was my lung but af­ter they did a cou­ple MRIs in Air Force they said that I had sliced my liver. They didn’t want me to fly home so I spent a cou­ple days in the hos­pi­tal there. I had great doc­tors. Kevin Pat­ter­son’s dad, Barry Pat­ter­son, stayed with me the whole time there. I can’t thank him enough for help­ing me through that dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion.”

The re­cov­ery was grim­mer for

James P. McCoy/Buffalo News

The re­turn of De­rian Plouffe, left, and Tan­ner Lom­snes have helped Ni­a­gara’s quick turn­around to the top of At­lantic Hockey.

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