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‘Crunker’ playing like MVP as K’s win again

January 6, 2019

MVPs don’t often look this way, missing front teeth, stitches keeping their eyebrows from pouring blood over the reporters’ notepads. But that’s how Taylor Crunk was Saturday and no one in the Komets’ locker room would have disputed he was the MVP : not just of the night, but of the weekend : even if the statistics barely accounted for him.

“The guys really rally around Crunker,” coach Gary Graham said, after a 3-2 victory over the Indy Fuel in front of 7,441 fans at Memorial Coliseum.

Crunk came out of the game, Fort Wayne’s third straight victory, with only an assist and no shots on goal. But his teammates gave him the spaceman helmet that goes to their MVP for his first-period assist on a Justin Hodgman goal. Coming over the blue line, Crunk dropped a pass a split-second before he was obliterated by a Dmitry Osipov body check. Hodgman scooped up the puck and fired a shot from the left circle past goaltender Matt Tomkins for a 1-0 lead at 10:24.

“It starts in the locker room and we’ve been preaching (that we need) a lot of sacrifice lately,” Crunk said. “I think obviously, this weekend, we need that out of everybody and it’s starting to click. Everybody’s just buying in, as far as sacrifice goes. You have to make those plays in order to win games, especially down the stretch here.”

It was the Komets’ third victory in as many nights, in as many cities, since team president Michael Franke lambasted them for inconsistency after the 4-3 New Year’s Eve loss to the Brampton Beast at the Coliseum.

The Komets (19-14-1) beat the Fuel 4-1 on Thursday and defeated Western Conference-leading Cincinnati 2-1 on Friday, when Crunk fought Anthony Florentino at the opening faceoff and screened the goalie to help Trey Phillips net the winning goal.

“Two nights in a row, (Crunk) has set the tone with the biggest play of the game. Last night, it was that fight that got the boys going and we played unreal,” Hodgman said. “And tonight, that (assist) was so huge, so underrated. I had the easy job. He had the hard job. Ever since he’s been inserted into the top nine, he’s played unbelievable.”

The Komets took a 2-0 lead when Jake Kamrass skated out from behind the net to send a pass into the crease for Mason Baptista to swat the puck in at 13:23. For Indy (18-16-0), Brett Welychka answered with a wrist shot from the blue line at 16:25.

Fort Wayne’s Shawn Szydlowski regained the two-goal lead by breaking into the offensive zone, faking a pass and snapping a shot from the right circle into the top of the net 4:01 into the second period.

Again, the Fuel answered, an Osipov blue-line shot deflecting off goalie Zach Fucale’s blocker and into the air, where Indy’s Quentin Shore batted it to the ice with his glove and slipped a shot inside the right post. But the comeback ended there; Fucale stopped 25 shots and Tomkins stopped 25.

″(Crunk) is doing the little things. Coming into this 2019 year, we have to find a way to be more desperate in everything we do in games if we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win games,” Graham said.

“The division is too good and the parity is real. To create separation in the standings, we’re going to have to give more of ourselves every night. I told the guys, ‘I’ll give you more days off for rest or whatever I can do for you, but we need to empty the tank, do everything right, all the little things.’ He’s really bought into that.”

Marco Roy was returned to the Komets by Chicago of the American Hockey League.

jcohn@jg.net

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