Exter, Conscious and Alert; Shows Improvement

Joe Exter flashed a broad smile and thumbs-up sign to his surprised visitors yesterday during an impromptu walk from his hospital bed to a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center waiting room. A clear signal the worst appears to be over for the Merrimack College goaltender.

Still dealing with complications brought on by a fractured skull suffered earlier this month during a high-speed collision with a Boston College player, Exter has shown the same determination in his recovery as the 24-year-old had throughout his outstanding second-team All-Hockey East senior season.

“Joe’s just so strong,” said Merrimack head coach Chris Serino, who accompanied Exter on his hallway stroll. “And he still cares about his teammates. He was asking questions about how (Marco) Rosa’s wrist was healing after we talked about how he was feeling today.”

Exter was moved from Beth Israel’s intensive care unit over the weekend to intermediate care and was upgraded from fair to stable condition. Plans are being made for the Cranston, R.I., native to soon be transferred to a rehabilitation facility for further treatment.

Serino says Exter has shown frustration by his slow progress since waking early last week after spending nine days in serious condition. But the Warriors captain, whose voice is still very faint, apparently hasn’t lost any of his sharp sense of humor.

“I asked him how many times did he tell me not to worry last year when I was going through my treatments (for throat cancer),” Serino said. “He held up two fingers. I said it was much more than two, and he smiled and said, ‘No, 200.'”

Exter was injured March 7 when his goalie helmet was knocked off during a violent collision with Boston College freshman Patrick Eaves while both were racing for a loose puck late in the third period of their Hockey East quarterfinal playoff game.

Exter’s head hit the Conte Forum ice and he soon began convulsing after suffering what is being reported as two skull fractures.

He also required assistance to help him breathe while being prepared to be transported from the Boston College campus to the Boston hospital.

Exter was listed in critical condition for much of the first 24 hours of his hospitalization before being upgraded to serious shortly before Merrimack was eliminated from the playoffs by BC the night following the injury.