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Blackbirds’ Nicholas Townes driven by no-quit attitude

Updated: April 16, 2013 4:22PM



DYER — It’s the ultimate compliment for any athlete to have his coach wonder what his No. 1 contribution to the team is.

Is it his talent or his work ethic?

When the subject is Illiana Blackbirds hockey standout Nicholas Townes, coach Reid Simpson will have to get back think about that one.

“When you have a player who is better than everyone else and they work harder than every one else, it brings the team up,” Simpson said. “We’re fortunate to have guys like Nick who lead the way in that catagory.”

It was that work ethic that allowed Townes to help the Blackbirds sweep their first two opponents in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League playoffs with a third round best two-of-three series with the Wisconsin Rampage beginning Friday at Wisconsin.

It was that same effort that came in handy during his darkest moment, months ago.

The talent part speaks for itself. Despite playing in only 16 Blackbirds games, the Crown Point native has scored 13 goals and 18 assists.

But this story that potentially has a happy ending almost never got out of the starting gate. Not many success stories start the subject considering himself lying in his death bed.

“I was playing in Janesville, Wisconsin, and our coach decided to have off-ice training after we had been in a golf outing in the heat all day,” Townes said. “About an hour into it I collapsed.”

Townes said his kidneys failed on him and he had to stay in the hospital for eight days. Once he was let out of the hospital, he says he had to stay inactive for two more months.

“I lost around 15 pounds, and afterwards I didn’t know if I wanted to come back and play,” Townes said. “Sad to say, I really almost died.”

Townes’ love of the game made him change his mind quickly, which is where some good timing comes in. During his recovery, he went to Minnesota to “get my legs back” but playing there just didn’t work out for him. But there just happened to be a first-year team back home that could use his services.

“It’s nice playing here,” said Townes. “It all works out.”

Consider that an understatement.

Townes, who already has a high school state title and two state title game appearances with Crown Point on his resume, has shined in the postseason with the Blackbirds, highlighted by a hat trick and five points in the Illiana 10-1 win over Wooster.

His first-period goal in Game 2 tied the Blackbirds with Wooster before they cruised to a 4-1 series clinching win.

And now Townes returns to Wisconsin, where his odyssey began, for a duel with the Wisconsin Rampage, two wins away from playing for the league championship.

“We wanted good players on our team but we also wanted good citizens, but as the year progressed, we had the need to have a marquee player,” Simpson said. “That’s what we got when Nick came to play for us. He’s a difference maker.”



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