It has been a long and trying autumn for Tom May.
For the University of Denver hockey team, May's banishment could not have ended at a better time.
After serving a seasonlong suspension for academic troubles and conduct detrimental to the team, May is expected to return to the Pioneers lineup when they host Minnesota State in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series tonight and Saturday at Magness Arena.
May's return is in line with the timetable coach George Gwozdecky has discussed throughout the season. It just so happens the junior forward's comeback will help offset a sudden spate of injuries that have knocked defenseman Adrian Veideman and forward Ryan Helgason out of the lineup.
"I went through some rough times, and it's really exciting to be back," said May, who was suspended in the spring and rejoined practice at the beginning of last week.
"I'm trying to have a real positive outlook on it. I learned a lot from the whole situation. It really makes you step back and look at things. I focus a lot more on my schooling, and I really did a lot better with grades. It was real hard not having hockey, not being around the guys, but it was just a part of my life where I had to figure some stuff out for myself."
Veideman and Helgason were injured in the Pioneers' loss Saturday against Colorado College. Veideman, the team captain, suffered a concussion and could be sidelined until the Denver Cup holiday tournament at the end of the month.
Helgason, one of DU's speediest wings, suffered a broken bone in his left hand and probably will not play against the Mavericks. Helgason's status will be re- evaluated during the weekend. Several Pioneers also battled a bout of stomach flu this week, but most of the afflicted have recovered.
The 6-foot-3 May provides a physical presence at forward, and with Veideman, Helgason and J.D. Corbin (broken fibula) sidelined, May immediately becomes one of the Pioneers' most experienced skaters.
Without those seniors, May will be one of only five nongoalie regulars remaining from DU's 2005 national championship team.
He has appeared in 61 games during his career and played in all 39 games last season, posting six goals and five assists.
"The timing couldn't be better for Tommie May," Gwozdecky said. "He's worked very hard in many areas. He's been a model student-athlete, and I've been proud of his efforts. We're fortunate to have the depth to have Tom back. I think Tom will be the first to tell you his first two years as a Pioneer underexceeded everybody's estimates. This experience has really taught him how much he loves the game and how much he wants to be part of this team."