Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Krause's Return Boosts Bulldogs as Second Half Prep Continues

He had to talk his way into the lineup against Colorado College, but there's no question UMD senior captain Adam Krause is ready to play now.

"I'm back, and I feel good," he said. "Don't even have a brace on right now. Just a little tape."

Krause broke his wrist against Denver Oct. 25. He described it as such a freak play. He wasn't slashed or anything like that. He followed through on a pass, and his hand hit the midsection of Denver forward Ty Loney, bent wrong, and he felt the crack. Krause tried to get it taped up and continue playing, but it was quickly determined to be a bad idea. He missed eight games, and UMD went 6-1-1 while he was out, including a two-game home-and-home sweep of rival Minnesota.

"People come up to me and say it must have been hard to watch," Krause noted, "and it was, but Bulldog hockey has been part of my life for my whole life. Whenever the Bulldogs win is a good night.

"It was awesome to see. Some of the guys who got limited minutes stepped up and got to play with some more experienced guys, and it was awesome to see. The guys helped me out along the way when I was practicing with them, kind of kept my chin up."

Krause returned Dec. 5 against Colorado College. He said he had to talk his way into the lineup because coach Scott Sandelin didn't feel he was ready. But that night, Sandelin noted that Krause "was one of our only guys who was playing" during the first period, as CC took a 1-0 lead and largely shut down the potent UMD attack. So Krause went from limited fourth line minutes to being reunited with the top line of Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo.

The three combined for the tying goal Friday, then Krause had a goal and assist Saturday in a 7-2 win. The three iced a Dec. 12 win at Michigan Tech when Krause deftly sprung Toninato for a breakaway goal to restore UMD's two-goal edge after Tech had cut it in half.

Keep in mind that Krause did all that with a brace. He wasn't 100 percent. He is now.

Krause and his teammates are looking forward to this weekend's exhibition series against Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. It's a good chance to shake off the rust before a key NCHC series at North Dakota next weekend. The team returned from break Sunday and practiced for the first time Monday. Energy has been good, and spirits are high.

"We didn't really want to play at North Dakota right away, and Lakehead was good enough to have us come up there," Krause said. "It'll be a rough series, but it's a good chance to bond closer as a team and get away for a bit."

This starts a run of 20 games in ten weekends to finish the regular season. UMD will not take a weekend off until its season is over, unless it makes the Frozen Four.

(UMD will play without forward Kyle Osterberg this weekend, but he's expected back for the UND games. Coincidentally, Osterberg had quite the injury scare in the October exhibition against Lakehead in Duluth, where he took a knee on knee hit and was lucky to not miss any playing time as a result.)

There's just no questioning Krause's value to the team, even if he isn't necessarily comfortable when confronted with it.

Ask his teammates. They don't just say he's a good captain.

Kyle Osterberg and Karson Kuhlman are among those who have -- independently -- told me Krause is the best captain they've ever played with. Keep in mind, those are guys who have played on national teams. It's high praise.

Krause didn't take his absence lightly. Showing the kind of character he possesses, he didn't spend much time slouching. Sure, in the week after he was hurt, it was clear he wasn't pleased with the situation. But it didn't take long for his trademark positive attitude to return. I knew Adam wouldn't spend much time feeling sorry for himself, but he came back with a great perspective on what he has the chance to do at UMD.

"First thing my mom and dad said was it could have been a lot worse," he said this week. "I have my roommate, who was paralyzed in hockey. Looking at him, hockey is a dangerous sport, breaking a wrist is nothing compared to what could happen. I grew from it. I got excited about the game again. I got determined. I'm not ready to give the game up yet, and I kinda saw how big a part of my life it is."

You could follow this program for 50 years and not find a better representative of it -- on the ice and off -- than Adam Krause. That his teammates speak so highly of him, and that the praise is practically unanimous, should tell you all you need to know. Krause won't be in line for the Hobey Baker Award because he isn't a 25-goal superstar, but his name should be mentioned for significant honors because of his academics, character, and leadership. And thanks to Krause and his talented teammates, the Bulldogs have a chance to be playing deep into March and -- dare we say it -- maybe April, too.

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