WORCESTER, Mass. – Spencer Abbott walked out of the University of Maine locker room after Friday’s practice and into the same questions he’s heard for nearly a week.

How does he feel? Will he play Saturday night?

“I feel like I’m ready to go, (but) I’m not a doctor. They’re pretty keen about this.”

Tim Whitehead stuck to the same wait-and-see attitude after Abbott skated with linemates Brian Flynn and Joey Diamond during Friday’s practice on the DCU Center ice. Abbott suffered an apparent concussion during the Hockey East semifinals last weekend in Boston.

“Several people have asked me if he’s going to give it a go,” said Whitehead, Maine’s coach. “You don’t give it a go with a head injury. He has not been cleared yet.

“If he’s not playing, we’ll certainly be ready, and if he is, that’s just a bonus.”

Maine plays Minnesota-Duluth tonight in the second semifinals game of the NCAA Northeast Regional. Minnesota-Duluth is the defending national champion. Maine is back in the NCAA playoffs for the first time in five years. Victory ends the season for the losing team.

“I’ve felt progress,” said Abbott, who had to be helped off the TD Garden ice last Saturday. “The headaches have stopped. I feel pretty solid.”

Abbott does remember the hit to his head, behind the Boston University goal. “It was just a freak play. I was a little confused at first, but I knew where I was. It was none of the crazy things you hear happen.”

Minnesota-Duluth seems to be less concerned if Abbott plays or not. “We tend to try to focus more on our team and what we need to do,” said Coach Scott Sandelin. “For us, certainly, we have a lot of respect for their program and their team and how hard they’re going to work.”

Senior forward Jack Connolly — brother to Boston University captain Chris Connolly — is Minnesota-Duluth’s Abbott. He is a Hobey Baker finalist and one of college hockey’s top scorers, behind Abbott.

“Obviously he’s a tremendous player, he’s got a great hockey IQ,” said Connolly, speaking of Abbott. “He’s a dangerous player every time he’s on the ice. We don’t know whether he’s playing or not, but we’re going to have to keep an eye on him. (But) I’m out there to focus on what we need to do and ultimately get a couple of wins under our belt.”

Connolly laughed. He has talked with his brother about Maine. “He said they have a lot of speed, but I think we can get after their defense and capitalize on their weaknesses.”

The intangible is that Minnesota-Duluth has players who have the experience of playing in an NCAA regional. Maine is the newcomer and the underdog.

“I’m sure we’ll be a little nervous for the first few minutes,” said Maine senior defenseman Ryan Hegarty. “We can’t make the big mistakes. We don’t need to get all hyped up. Deep down we’ve got a fire in our belly.”

Whitehead sees Minnesota-Duluth as more of the same. “That’s one of the positives in playing in the Hockey East. You get out of your own tournament and you qualify (for the NCAA playoffs) and you’re ready for anything. We’ve been through that wringer.”

Reaching the NCAA playoffs was the goal set before the season. But then, it’s a goal for every season at Maine. That there’s been a four-year hiatus hasn’t been lost on the seniors in particular and the team in general.

“This is why I came to Maine,” said junior forward Diamond. “To play in the NCAAs. We’re back where we belong.”

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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