Akerman’s looking good, seeing well

Less than a year after surgery to save sight in his eye, goaltender backstopped C.B.N. Stars in Don Johnson Cup

Robin Short rshort@thetelegram.com
Published on May 2, 2016

The Avalon Capitals’ Jordan Freake jumps out of the way of a shot in front of C.B.N. Stars goaltender Riley Akerman during the opening game of the Don Johnson Cup Atlantic junior B hockey championship last Tuesday at the Conception Bay South Arena in Kelligrews. The Stars won 5-3.

©Keith Gosse photo

Play in the Don Johnson Memorial Cup for the Atlantic junior B hockey championship got underway last week with a pair of Newfoundland teams squaring off in Conception Bay South.

The C.B.N. MoorFrost Stars from Bay Roberts represented the province, after winning the Penney Mazda St. John’s Junior Hockey League championship a couple of weeks ago. Their opponent was the Avalon Roebothan, McKay, Marshall Capitals, who lost to the Stars in the seven-game city final.

C. B. N. coach Rod Noseworthy tapped goaltender Riley Akerman, who posted back-toback shutouts in Games 6 and 7 of the final and winning playoff MVP honours, to start the first game.

And while Akerman’s performance late in the series against the Capitals made for a good story, it’s nothing compared to what the young goaltender endured — and overcame — a little less than a year ago.

“The thing I remember is screaming, ‘I can’t see!’” he recalls from that May 30 afternoon in Etobicoke, One.

“I couldn’t open my eyes. And I didn’t until Dr. (Josh) Teichman forced them open. It took all of me not to scream out in pain.”

Akerman, fresh off a year with the Tri-Pen major midget squad, was in the Greater Toronto Area for a junior prospects camp.

During a scrimmage, a play that’s happened a million times before in a million different games, occurred when a shot came from the blueline towards a screened Akerman. The puck struck him square in the facemask, and the resulting damage may be best described as a life-changing event.

A piece of wire broke off and pierced his left eye. It cut his iris, damaged the pupil, cut the retina, and shattered the lens. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he underwent a three-hour emergency surgery.

About two weeks after the initial surgery — performed to save his eye — Akerman went under for a second surgery in St. John’s performed by local eye specialist Dr. Jim Whelan, who tried to restore as much vision as possible.

It was a long summer of 2015 for the goalie from Bay Roberts, now 18 and a first-year engineering student at Memorial University. There was a lot of discomfort last July and August, a number of migraines he chooses to forget now.

The hardest part, however, was not knowing if his vision would return. There was a 12week period after the second surgery when he was not out of the woods, not certain if his vision would return to even an acceptable level.

By now, of course, we know it did. He recovered sufficiently to get back on the ice in early September. He was used sparingly by the Stars prior to Christmas, but began to play more in the new year.

“I wanted to get back in there (goal), but I admit I was nervous, which is human nature,” he said. “It’s been a slow process.”

He finished the regular season with a 4-5 record, 3.80 goals against average and .890 save percentage. He upped his game in the playoffs, going 11-6 with a 2.77 GAA and impressive .930 save percentage.