WORCESTER, Mass. – The moment wasn’t milked. There was no need to keep anyone in suspense. Spencer Abbott was in uniform.

Maybe 30 minutes after the news was tweeted, texted or spread the old-fashioned way by word of mouth, Abbott walked down the runway with his University of Maine teammates and skated onto the ice for the pregame warm-up.

He curled from right to left in front of the empty net, got a puck on the end of his stick and flicked it home. The burst of cheering from Maine fans had to raise goosebumps. Yes, Minnesota-Duluth kicked Maine out of the NCAA playoffs by the end of the game with its 5-2 win. Happy endings are never guaranteed.

Let the Willis Reed moment from Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals be remembered by the older folk. The New York Knicks’ center was a doubtful starter until he hobbled onto the court late in warm-ups. Paul Pierce did something similar in the 2008 NBA finals when he was carried off the court in a game against the Lakers with a knee injury, but returned to disbelieving eyes to lead the Celtics to the big win.

You may have looked at Abbott as the cavalry but he didn’t need to hear bugles sound. That’s not his style. The noise that greeted the game’s first goal — by Abbott late in the first period — was enough. And left his coach shaking his head.

“Can you believe that? The way he put himself in traffic after coming back from a concussion? The kid has ice water in his veins,” said Tim Whitehead.

Broken ribs can be taped and padded. Bleeding wounds can be stitched. Torn ligaments can sometimes be treated and the pain ignored. Concussions take time to heal and Maine was down to the 11th hour. Abbott was given the green light to play about one hour before the game.

Not play? Abbott remembered what last weekend felt like when he could only watch Boston College beat Maine for the Hockey East championship.

Break your arm and the cast can console, if only a little. Twist a knee hard enough and the crutches say you suffered in the line of duty. Take a hard hit to the head and you can appear normal to everyone but the doctors who give you the cognitive tests that measure reactions, comparing results to the test taken when you’re perfectly OK.

During Friday’s contact practice, none of his teammates came near him. Abbott wanted to tell them he wasn’t brittle. C’mon, test me. No one would.

Later on Friday and through Saturday afternoon, for every Maine fan or media type saying Abbott would play, there was one saying he couldn’t.

When Abbott talked Friday, the typically serious guy seemed upbeat. What a trooper, we told ourselves afterward. He’s talking so positive to keep his teammates’ spirits up.

Late in the afternoon, three of the four teams had put out their line sheets, comparable to a batting lineup.

Maine had not.

Patty Higgins of Old Orchard Beach walked into the arena as the Boston College-Air Force semifinal was played. She had stopped somewhere in Massachusetts to get on the Internet and find an update on Abbott’s condition.

Was he playing or wasn’t he? She couldn’t find out and didn’t know.

Until a sports writer confirmed what she wanted to hear.

Parents among the Maine fans wrestled with their feelings. If Abbott was their son, what would they want? A definitive opinion that college hockey’s top scorer was good to go. You don’t mess with brains.

Abbott has a life ahead of him and whatever happened on a March 24, 2012 scoreboard wasn’t going to make a difference.

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

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Twitter: SteveSolloway