Earlier today, Minnesota Wild prospect and incoming University of Notre Dame freshman Mario Lucia posted this tweet, which was vague enough to not give it a second thought.
Don't take the things you love in life for granted because you'll never know when you'll have to give them upUnfortunately, there is a meaning behind it as Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the 2011 second round pick broke his left fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle during a practice yesterday. The initial diagnosis is that Lucia will be in a cast for seven weeks and miss the season's first 3 months, a crushing blow for what looked to be a promising freshman season with the Fighting Irish.
— Mario Lucia (@MLucia2293) August 30, 2012
Instead, he's looking at rehabilitation and a long road back; two things you never wish on any player no matter how well they look to overcome adversity. And Mario does seem to be taking things well in stride, telling Russo, "[h]opefully I can get a few games in before the world junior camp. In the meantime, I'll just work to do well in school and have a good second half. But this is very disappointing."
One big thing about the injury is that the 19 year-old loses valuable development time. Lucia, who finished third in the BCHL with 94 points (42G-52A), showed that he was able to score at the junior level but there is an adjustment going from Penticton to the CCHA that most freshmen find out. Missing the first half of the year means he will just be debuting as everyone else is hitting their stride.
Notre Dame can survive losing the jewel of their freshman class - although Riley Sheahan signed with Detroit, T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee remain with Lucia's Penticton teammate Steven Fogarty coming in as well - but that's little comfort for Wild fans.
Another issue with the timetable of Lucia's recovery is that it impacts his chances of making the United States' World Junior Championships team. While Mario shined at this month's National Junior Evaluation Camp, scoring a hat trick in one scrimmage, getting back in three months has him back just before the December 26th-January 5th tournament in Ufa, Russia. There is always a chance he gets named to the team based on talent (as Chris Peters of United States of Hockey points out, Lucia is one of the stronger LW candidates) but that is not likely if he can't prove his health. Team USA does need scoring, just not as badly as healthy bodies.
If there is any sliver of a silver lining (and it's hard to use that term when discussing someone injuring themselves), Notre Dame plays Minnesota at Mariucci Arena January 5th. If Lucia cannot play in the World Juniors, he should be back under the original timeline and gives Minnesota fans a chance to see him. More importantly it also give his father, Gophers head coach Don Lucia, a chance to see him.
And sometimes that's more important. We wish Mario the best in his recovery.
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Photo credit: Fraser Rodgers/BCHL.ca