Cruikshank St Cloud

Colorado College’s Grant Cruikshank carries the puck Friday against St. Cloud State. The junior scored for a third straight game, but the Tigers fell.

After appendicitis interrupted season, CC hockey captain Cruikshank taking advantage of COVID-19 pause

{child_byline}Kate Shefte

kate.shefte@gazette.com{/child_byline}

Grant Cruikshank will sport some new scars that didn’t come from a high stick or an errant puck.

If there is a benefit in Colorado College’s second quarantine of the season after a positive COVID-19 test, it’s that the Tigers’ junior co-captain has had more time to work his way back after his appendix burst in an emergency room waiting area Jan. 7.

The incident took a chunk out of a promising season for the forward, whose Hobey Baker nomination was announced on Monday.

“Usually if you’re playing hockey and you get hurt playing, you’re thinking, ‘I could have done this, I could have done that,’” Cruikshank said. “The appendix was so random and out of the blue.

“It was a tough pill to swallow because I couldn’t have done anything about it.”

A crummy practice gave way to bad sleep and worsening pain. Cruikshank, then the Tigers’ top-line center and second-leading scorer, thought it might be a stomach bug, but the team doctor suspected appendicitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, it most often occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30.

Cruikshank, 22, estimates he spent about seven and a half hours waiting for surgery, and about halfway through, his appendix burst.

“Worst pain I’ve been in, maybe ever,” Cruikshank said. “It was a pretty miserable few hours there at the hospital.”

A burst appendix spills infection into the abdomen and can lead to serious complications, but Cruikshank was up soon and taking short walks. He was doing light skating before the team left for North Dakota two weeks after his surgery. His girlfriend was there to help and his mother, retired American speedskater Bonnie Blair Cruikshank, checked in while the team was away.

Roommate Ben Copeland — “I think he would have been freaking out if he was the one who had to take care of me,” Cruikshank joked — took over on the top line with Josiah Slavin and Patrick Cozzi. Copeland has seen a scoring uptick (2 goals, 3 assists in 5 games) and he jumped ahead of Cruikshank on the CC scoring list during the six games he missed.

The Tigers lost all six.

“It felt even worse because the boys haven’t been able to squeak one out,” Cruikshank said.

“I was just sitting there watching, but I wanted to get out there and help. It is what it is. It was brutal.”

Cruikshank was planning to return against Denver on Jan. 29 after just two full-contact practices. But the team returned from North Dakota with an unwelcome souvenir and shut down Jan. 26 after a player’s positive test.

The entire team didn’t sequester in a hotel this time, Cruikshank said. Many players stayed in on-campus apartments and Colorado residents were given the option to go home and wait it out.

Cruikshank, who didn’t travel with the team to Grand Forks, has been skating during the pause. The team finally reunited with its captain on the ice Thursday.

“We’ve missed that calming influence on the bench,” coach Mike Haviland said after the UND series.

The series against Denver has yet to be rescheduled. The Tigers (3-11-2) are off this weekend but set to travel to Omaha for two games Feb. 12-13.

“I thought the guys looked really good and dominated for most of the weekend, and deserved to win for sure one game, if not both,” Cruikshank said of two 3-2 losses against then-No. 9 Omaha in January. “So we know that we can play with them and be way better than them.

“Try to get our special teams figured out. Focus on the things we can control. Try to get hot at the right time. That’s really all that matters.”

Cruikshank said the second pause isn’t the worst thing that could have happened to him personally. It gave him more time to get back to normal, sans appendix, before rejoining a team that has struggled without him.

“It’s been about a month since I played a game,” Cruikshank, who had 6 goals and 8 points through 10 games, said. “I’m itching to get back out there.”

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