At 6-3, 195 pounds, junior defenseman Doug Krantz could stand eye-to-eye with the Phoenix Coyotes’ Ed Jovanovski. In fact, one player might be confused for the other. Both fit the mold of the aggressive Canadian defenseman. Both are specialists on the power play and penalty kill. Both use their speed and acute hockey sense to force turnovers in the offensive zone.
It could be a mirror image if it weren’t for those wrist guards.
“He wears them all the time,” said senior defenseman Dan Glover. “On and off the ice.”
Be it superstition, habit or just quirky sense of fashion, the wrist guards seem to be working. Krantz, a Marysville, B.C., native who earned all-regional NCAA honors last year, is poised to become the Red’s premier defenseman in 2006-07. As the head of an inexperienced defensive corps thinned by graduation and injury, Krantz will be looked upon to provide stability to the historically impenetrable Cornell blue line.
“Any experience that I have I want to use as an example for the younger guys,” Krantz said. “I’m definitely trying to show the work ethic at Cornell — we might not always have the most talented guys, but we always work the hardest.”
Krantz steps into the spotlight in the wake of the departure of classmate and fellow defenseman Sasha Pokulok ’08, who was signed by the Washington Capitals in July. A few weeks later, Ryan O’Byrne ’07 joined the Cornell pipeline to the NHL when the Montreal Canadiens signed him to an entry-level deal.
To add to the Red’s defensive woes this season, Glover — one of only two senior defensemen listed on the Cornell roster — is scheduled for hip surgery and is not expected to rejoin the lineup until January.
“It’s my senior year, so it’s going to be [tough],” Glover said. “But I don’t have any doubt as to [Krantz’s] leadership. He’s going to have to carry the younger guys and lead by example.”
Krantz, who played through a hand injury at the end of last season, is prepared to assume a critical leadership role for the Red this year. Last season, he scored twice and recorded five assists in 33 games. His +10 rating was the second highest on the team.
“[Krantz] has great skating speed for a defenseman,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “He uses his speed and reach to his advantage and creates offense when he’s up ice.”
Like Jovo, Krantz has turned pinching into an art form. He routinely foils the breakout attempts of opposing teams, forcing turnovers and providing the Cornell forwards with extra scoring opportunities. Though not for the faint of heart — an ill-timed pinch often results in a breakaway or two-on-one for the opposing team — the successful efforts of defensemen like Krantz can radically change the course of a game.
“I think it’s one of the things that is the most fun about the game of hockey — jumping up, creating some offense and opening up the ice for our forwards,” Krantz said. “You have to read it, though. [Cornell] prides itself on not giving up too many odd-man rushes.“
The Red hopes Krantz’s veteran presence — both on the blue line and in the locker room — will help ease the challenging transition from last season. For his part, Krantz believes he is more than capable of leading Cornell to its perennial goal — an ECAC title and a berth to the NCAA tournament.
“I want to be the go-to-guy on the back end,” Krantz said. “I pride myself on my consistency.”
One thing is for certain — the Red’s young defensive unit will be well-mentored. And of course, Krantz’s wrists will be well-insulated.