The other shoe has fallen. After UPEI men's hockey rookie Mason Wilgosh was assessed a match penalty for a dangerous hit on Acadia's star defenceman Christopher Owens back on November 30th, AUS followers have waited to see if the conference would follow up on their talk this season about putting a focus on head injuries. They have. It was announced yesterday that Wilgosh received an automatic four-game suspension for the match penalty under CIS rules and that AUS executive director Phil Currie added an additional eight-game suspension in supplemental discipline.
This season the AUS men's hockey conference moved two games from the second half to the first half, meaning that there is only 12 games remaining in the schedule for each team after Christmas. As Wilgosh has already served one game of his suspension, and he won't be permitted to "serve" any of his suspension during UPEI holiday exhibition games, the first-year player won't be allowed to play again until the last regular season game of the second half -- February 8th at home versus St. Thomas.
For that second period half hit on Owens, Wilgosh was assessed a major penalty, a match penalty for intent to injure and an automatic game misconduct -- 25 minutes in penalties on the game sheet. That is more PIMs in one game than Wilgosh accumulated in 59 games played with the WHL's Tri-City Americans last season.
As for the victim, Owens was interviewed the following day shortly before the UNB-Acadia game on Annapolis Valley Radio by play-by-play man Len Hawley. Owens said then that he was doing pretty good and didn't remember anything just before the hit, only that he woke up on the stretcher and saw head coach Darren Burns (by my estimation that was probably half way through the approximately 20 minutes between the hit and when Owens was finally taken by ambulance to hospital).
There's more on Owens current condition in today's Halifax Herald. “It could have been very bad, but fortunately it wasn’t,” Currie said of the hit. “It’s a concussion. He had to defer the writing of his exams to next semester, which is really unfortunate. But we have a duty, especially in university sport, of protecting the student aspect of student-athletes. That’s a position we were public about taking and that’s where we’ll be moving forward.”
So there you go -- a dangerous blindside hit and the perpetrator is assessed almost a half-season in suspensions under the AUS's new focus. Maybe this will get players to think twice before going for that big hit. Cross your fingers.
UPDATE: UPEI has filed a formal appeal on the Wilgosh suspension for "unfairness in the process, and in the severity of the suspension.”