By Debbie Juniewicz
Dayton Daily News
To some it was a long shot, but Matt Herneisen spoke about his return to the rink in these playoffs with certainty.
“I’d tell people I’d be back late in the third round or in the Kelly Cup,” the Dayton Bombers forward said. “I thought it was really going to happen; that’s why I worked so hard to get back.”
Herneisen suffered a concussion and a fractured cheekbone after being leveled by Trenton Titans right wing Pierre-Luc Leblond in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. Leblond received a one-game suspension, but Herneisen spent four weeks on the sidelines.
He watched the Bombers go down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series against Cincinnati and spoke to his teammates in the locker room during Game 5.
“I think the one positive that came out of this was that the guys used my injury to their advantage,” Herneisen said. “They knew I deserved to be there with them and I like to think they kept going so I could be.”
The Bombers fought back to win the North Division title in seven games. By Game 6 of the American Conference Finals, Herneisen was back and Florida-bound. After missing 13 playoff games in three different series, the 25-year-old forward returned to the ice.
“There was no grace period,” Herneisen said. “I felt like my head was spinning a little in that first period. Even after all my conditioning, it was tough being back in the game.”
As the Bombers embark on their Kelly Cup quest on Wednesday against the Idaho Steelheads, Herneisen’s presence will be noticeable.
“He knows how to play a physical game better than almost anyone else on the team,” Bombers coach Don MacAdam said. “And he’s likely one of our most emotional players, so having him back will make a difference.”