Penn State Icers forward Matt Kirstein has a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and expects to be out for three to five weeks, he said Wednesday.
Kirstein suffered the injury during practice Tuesday, when he suffered a big hit by a teammate during a drill. Penn State coach Scott Balboni called the injury a "stinger" Tuesday, but Wednesday Kirstein said the injury was a sprained MCL. The senior forward did not give a definite timetable for his return and he joins a growing list of injured Icers.
"It's real frustrating just for the fact alone that I thought I had a pretty good year last year," Kirstein said. "I wanted to be able to be a leader for the team on the ice and continue to play the way I played. I think the toughest thing is it's tough to be a leader when you're not able to play. You can do many things, but being on the ice with the guys is the biggest thing you miss."
Kirstein -- who said he already started to rehab the knee before he went to the doctor Wednesday -- had been in and out of the lineup so far this season.
He missed last weekend's games with a groin injury that's bothered him since the preseason. Kirstein missed the series with West Chester as well, although Balboni wanted him to take place in the Homecoming events -- since he was on the Homecoming Court -- even if his groin was healthy. He had two goals and four assists in six games.
The news couldn't come at a more inopportune time for the Icers, who also lost Taylor Cera for two to four weeks with a left ankle sprain. Although Balboni said Cera's return depends on how much the injury lingers, he is happy it didn't turn out to be more severe.
"He could've broke it, and he could've been out for the rest of the year," Balboni said. "So we're happy it's a high ankle sprain."
Cera was moving the puck with his skate during Penn State's 6-3 win over Drexel when his skate got caught in the ice, he said. With all his momentum and weight going forward, Cera said he rolled his ankle.
"I feel like I was just getting a groove playing a couple of games with my other injury, starting to play pretty well, play well with the team," Cera said. "And to go out, my first shift of that game Friday night, it's pretty frustrating."
Cera's absence for the near future means Penn State loses a physical presence that had found a niche in Balboni's lineup during the past four games. But Cera and Kirstein are just two more Icers who have battled the injury bug.
Defenseman Carey Bell missed time with a cut on his neck, and Dave Herel is currently out indefinitely with a fractured vertabrae in his back.
Balboni has had to shuffle his roster all season, and he might have to even more now that Cera and Kirstein are out for the foreseeable future.
And while players who have been called on to play have stepped up so far this season, assistant coach Bill Downey said it will be hard to replace what Cera brought to the roster on a daily basis.
"He's a guy who wants to improve every day," Downey said. "He wants to know why something's wrong when he does something wrong. He takes a pro-active approach at getting better as a hockey player, and I think that's a big thing. So that's a big character to lose in the lineup."