23 minutes into his first game of the season, Dustin Gazley was attacking Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s net. But before he could ever get a shot off, Cameron Gaunce shoved the forward in the back of his left shoulder, causing him to lose his balance and go foot first into the boards. His left foot was fractured and required surgery. 20 weeks later, Gazley is once again ready to sport a chocolate and white sweater again.
Very rarely does a player get injured in his first game of the season, but when is does happen it allows a player’s body to rest even more. So was an extended break good for the body? “Yes and no,” said Gazley after practice Wednesday. “It’s good to have the body rested for pretty much the whole season. I was no weight barring for nine weeks, so that was tough, but once I started working to get my strength back in my legs, it felt good. I feel good on the ice right now, I feel fresh, and in the long run that’ll help me.”
Originally, it was only projected for the 28-year-old to miss ten weeks. But the recovery for the injury took longer than expected. “A lot longer than anybody thought,” said head coach Troy Mann. “In a pinch, he would have played this past weekend, but now he is ready to go and mentally prepared to play.
“Now it’s just a matter of how can I squeeze him into the lineup or where does he fit. He’s going to have to be somewhat patient here because we don’t have the luxury of changing the lineup with how important the games are but I certainly want to get him integrated into the roster and this weekend might be a possibility. Maybe he gets a game Saturday to get back into it. Certainly, don’t think he will play two out of three or all three just based on where the lines are at. He has pretty much become our 13th forward.”
It’s a good time for Hershey to have a 13th forward of Gazley’s caliber. With 14 games left in the season and nine being in the division, the Bears are preparing for a tight race for the Calder Cup Playoffs. “It’s a good mood right now,” Gazley said. “Guys are loose and feeling good about themselves, and I think you need that going into this stretch. Have a little fun out there, and get a few wins like we did last weekend. We’ll push the pace here and continue working hard.”
And having fun is exactly what they’re doing. Tuesday morning during the snow storm, Nathan Walker took over the Bears Snapchat account. While Walker struggled to shovel the snow to get his plowed in car out (he used a broom that ended up breaking), Gazley came by to help his friend with not only a shovel but some salt.
The Michigan native grabbed a table salt grinder and went “Salt Bae” on his driveway. “I was trying to get the ice out of my driveway,” he said with a laugh. “We were just having fun with Snapchat. Walks had it out there, and I thought I’d give a viral video for the fans.”
Hopefully for the Bears, Gazley can sprinkle some magic as well into their lineup for the final month of the season