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CHL playoffs
Turner Conference
Game 1: at Rapid City, 9 p.m. Friday
Game 2: at Rapid City,
9 p.m. Saturday
Game 3: Memorial Coliseum, 7:30 p.m. April 20
Game 4: Coliseum, 8 p.m. April 22*
Game 5: at Rapid City, 8 p.m. April 24*
* if necessary
Cathie Rowand The Journal Gazette
Komets’ Matt Krug

Krug was Komets’ final piece

Has brought size, intensity to defense

If you have noticed a lot of opposing players crashing to the ice around the Komets’ net recently, you can thank defenseman Matt Krug.

His addition has given the Komets another desperately needed physical presence, and it has bolstered the defense and made life easier for goaltender Nick Boucher, whose line of sight is better.

“Matt brings a lot of weight. He’s 230 pounds,” coach Al Sims said. “And Dustin Molle is (212 pounds). Those are big bodies and are tough to move, especially in front of our net. You could see Bloomington players flying on their butts in front of our nets (during the first round of the playoffs), just because of guys like Krug and Molle. Those two guys add a lot of weight to our defense and a lot of toughness."

The Komets lost 16 of their first 21 games before finishing the regular season 37-22-7 and with the sixth seed in the Turner Conference. Their turnaround can be attributed to midseason additions of players like Colin Chaulk, Tab Lardner, Danny Lapointe, Michael Ratchuk, Molle and Krug, the final piece of what the Komets hope will be another championship after winning the last three in the IHL.

Krug had 14 goals and 47 points in 75 games last season with Muskegon of the IHL, getting the nod as the league’s top defenseman. But with the Komets, he was scoreless in three regular-season games and scoreless in the three-game sweep of the third-seeded PrairieThunder.

“This year, my role has been basically to play defense,” said Krug, a 25-year-old native of Livonia, Mich. “We’ve got the guys who can produce offensively here (from the blue line), like Frankie (DeAngelis), Dupuis and Ratchuk. They can skate up and down the ice all they want. My job is to keep the puck out of our back end and help out Boucher.”

Krug is the son of Kyle Krug, a coach in the Detroit area and a scout for the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.

Matt was taught to be a physical presence first and foremost – he is only 6 feet tall – and he relishes hitting opposing players.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Matt Krug said. “I’m my father’s son. That’s the way he played. That’s the way I grew up. And I love it when guys see me doing that in front of the net. I’m going to keep doing that. Nothing’s going to change. I’ll keep bringing the physicality.”

Against the top-seeded Rapid City Rush, the CHL’s defending champions, Krug will have to be on his game in the best-of-five series that starts Friday in South Dakota. Rapid City ranked ninth during the regular season with 3.18 goals per game, while the Fort Wayne defense ranked eighth with 3.09 goals against per game.

But the Rush won both meetings with the Komets, 4-0 and 3-1.

This is Krug’s third stint in a professional playoff race. Fresh out of college, where he played for Wayne State and then Robert Morris, he dressed for one game with Texas of the CHL in 2009. Last season, Muskegon was the top-seeded team before blowing 3-1 series lead against Flint and losing Game 7, 5-2 on home ice.

After bouncing around this season – 39 games with Gwinnett of the ECHL, 21 games with Elmira of the ECHL and one game with Chicago – he’s eager to help the Komets to another upset victory.

“After last year being in Muskegon, we lost a heartbreaker there in Game 7 and it’s definitely a great feeling to be going to the second round,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”