During the men’s hockey team’s exciting postseason run last year, defenseman Tom Dignard ’10 could do nothing but watch from the sidelines. But now, having rebounded from a ruptured spleen and an injured leg — injuries that forced him to miss the final 13 games of last season as well as the first three games of this season — Dignard is finally back. In the 16 games since returning, “Digs” has helped lead the No. 6 Bulldogs with both his defensive play and assists — his 1.19 points per game average ranks third nationally among all Div. I defensemen.

Q: Let’s talk about the injury you suffered last season. What happened?

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A: During a game against Quinnipiac, I had mono and I didn’t know about it. My spleen was enlarged and I got hit on my side. Initially I just thought I got the wind knocked out of me but then I just couldn’t breathe. I was lying down in the locker room and they had to call the ambulance.

Q: Was that the scariest moment of your life?

A: Yeah. It wasn’t scary when I was at the rink and the trainers were looking at me, but then when they’re bringing you into the emergency room and you’re their priority, you really think, ‘Wow, this could be it,’ or something like that.

Q: What was it like watching your teammates have so much success at the end of the last season while you could only watch?

A: It was definitely tough. The team was playing awesome and before the injury I had been playing pretty well. It was one of the best years ever in Yale’s history and I felt awful that I couldn’t be a part of it. But at the same time they were good at keeping me involved with the team atmosphere and that lifted my spirits and I felt awesome for them.

Q: What was the rehab process like and how long did it take for you to get back to 100 percent?

A: It’s tough to say because it’s not an injury that people get often. People usually get this injury from getting in a car accident. With mine, they just didn’t know how long it took to heal. They wanted to be very careful before I got back onto the ice. I could lift and do pretty much all of that stuff, but they were just worried about contact and me re-rupturing the spleen.

Q: You had to miss the first three games of this season after suffering a leg injury in preseason. When that happened were you thinking, ‘Oh know, déjà vu’?

A: It wasn’t really déjà vu, but I definitely thought, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ But that’s how it goes when you aren’t allowed to skate for seven months and you get right back into it at the Div. I level. My body just wasn’t used to it.

Q: Have you noticed a difference between this year’s team as opposed to last year’s one?

A: Last year’s team grew into this winning attitude as we won more games and got more confident. Coming into this season we had those high expectations, so we’re going into games expecting to win and doing our best to do that. So far we’ve been on the right track but we aren’t yet where we want to be. I think this last home stretch for us will be a determining point of where our season goes.

Q: Defensemen don’t capture the crowd’s attention as much as the goal scorers. Could you give some brief tips on what students in the crowd should be looking out for when it comes to good defense?

A: One of the big things I like to hold myself to is them not getting shots on our goalies. If we can hold them to like 20 shots a game, that’s really good for us. So we try to deflect pucks and not let them get good passes in our zone. If you’re just suffocating them and they spend no time in your zone then that’s what we really want.

Q: What do you think is your greatest strength as a player?

A: I think it’s my understanding of the game and how to play in different situations. In the first period I might be more defensive, but then in the third period if it’s a close game I know I’m able to step up. That’s what I pride myself on — stepping up at the right times and also knowing when to just stay back.