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Homegrown players relish title

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Flint’s Jamie Schaafsma and the Komets’ Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock battle for a loose puck. Schrock grew up in Fort Wayne.

Down goes Schrocky.

It’s a couple of hours after the end of Game 5, the Turner Cup’s safe over there at Frankie DeAngelis’ locker, and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock is looking at the world from the inside of a trash can. Nick Boucher has just picked the rookie up, hoisted him over his shoulder and deposited him there to loud and approving cheers.

So Schrock’s in the dumper, stocking feet pointing skyward, soaked to the skin with celebratory champagne. And the view is … tremendous.

Or maybe you think all this isn’t the coolest stuff ever, winning a Turner Cup in your hometown for the hockey team you grew up dreaming about playing for.

“This,” Schrock said Saturday night, “is an incredible experience. I’m still pinching myself.”

How could he not be?

A decade ago, after all, he was the kid sitting in the stands, watching Ian Boyce and Colin Chin and Steve Fletcher play. Now he stands where they stood, on a sheet of ice littered with sparkly confetti, watching one teammate after another lift the Cup and skate around the ice with it to the roar of a sellout crowd. And very soon, right behind him, Fletcher himself will appear on the Komets bench, looking on and remembering.

Talk about your childhood dreams coming to life.

“It’s just a great feeling,” Schrock says. “My teammates have been great all season long. The guys like Colin Chaulk and our veterans, P.C. Drouin, they showed up when we needed them the most. That’s what got it done for us.

“It means a lot. Just watching from the seats, the guys like Vlady Tsyplakov, Ian Boyce, the Fletchers, the Chins, and just to think that now I can be a part of that is really special.”

It was, in fact, something he talked about a lot during the season with Brandon Warner, the other homegrown Komet, for whom Saturday night was his third Cup in a row and whose appreciation for the historical rarity of that feat was, like Schrock’s, the appreciation of a native. Schrock professed to be green with envy when he came aboard this year. He couldn’t wait for his chance to lay hands on the Cup.

“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Warner said. “Me and Schrocky have been talking for a while, about growing up in Fort Wayne, watching the Komets back in the ’90s. …

“You know, we grew up with that expecting-to-win mentality. Fort Wayne is a winning city. It’s a winning town. They expect to win every year, and I think that works to our favor. It brings out the best in us.”

Surely it has for Warner.

He came here out of Michigan State, won the Turner Cup as a rookie, missed all but 26 games last year before winning a second Cup and emerged this season as one of the young/old dependables on the blue line.

Schrock, meanwhile, scored 20 goals in his rookie season and emerged as one of the quintessential energy guys on a team hardly lacking in that department.

Both knew what Saturday meant in a way few others did.

“Three in a row’s special – it makes it a little sweeter – but they’re all special. They all mean the same,” Warner said. “In this town, we don’t expect anything else but a championship.

“It’s what makes us great.”