|Roughnecks goalie Mike Poulin faces a shot by Athan Iannucci of the Stealth during a game in March. (Lyle Aspinall/QMI Agency/Files)
CALGARY - Mike Poulin was named the National Lacrosse League’s goaltender of the year Thursday, but that hardly makes the pain go away.
The playoff loss was one thing, but the Calgary Roughnecks netminder was going through more than most people realized the past month.
When Poulin was injured at the end of an April 6 win over the Rochester Knighthawks, the team described it as an ankle injury.
What really happened was Poulin was hit in the head during a last-minute goal-crease scramble and suffered a severe concussion.
It’s only now — after the Riggers lost 19-11 to the Edmonton Rush last Saturday in his first game back — he can openly talk about what ailed him.
“The coaching staff really wanted to protect me,” Poulin said. “It was doubtful I would return at the time.
“We wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be a target out there. Word got out and one minute into the game, one of their players (captain Jimmy Quinlan) ran through the crease and took a direct shot at my head.
“The injury was serious. I spent about two weeks sitting in a dark room trying to overcome the symptoms. A brain injury is one you don’t want to fool around with. That’s why the team was so serious to make sure I was 100% before I got into a game.”
Poulin was cleared for game action, but it was clear the month off made him a bit rusty. In the first quarter against the Rush, he allowed six goals on 19 shots and was clearly not himself before getting replaced by rookie Frankie Scigliano.
When Poulin returned to the crease in the second half, he was much sharper, but the damage had already been done and the Riggers comeback failed.
“I went out there with the best capabilities to help this team win,” said Poulin, who had a 10.27 goals-against average and .789 save percentage in the regular season.
“If I wasn’t 100%, I wouldn’t have played. It took me some time to get back into form out there. In the first quarter, I didn’t play my best lacrosse.
“No excuses. We lost the game when it mattered the most. Looking back on it now, I sure would have loved another crack at that first quarter. I won’t make any excuses for the time off. The final month certainly didn’t go my way.”
In the same game that Poulin got hurt, defender Jon Harnett also suffered a head injury thanks to a crushing hit from Rochester’s Steve Keogh.
Harnett still hasn’t been cleared to play due to a concussion, whiplash and a shoulder injury.
Coincidentally, Poulin and Harnett were roommates when coming to Calgary for games.
After suffering a concussion of his own, Poulin doesn’t want to see head hits as part of the game, although his was incidental.
“Jon was pretty calm in saying he should have had his head on a swivel,” Poulin said. “I’ve seen the game tape and there should have been something done about it.
“It was a blatant charge and hit to the head. It’s something we don’t want in this game. It’s something if you let it go, it will keep happening. Moving forward, we don’t want it to keep going.
“I never had to experience anything like (a concussion) before and hopefully I won’t have to again.”