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vs. Rapid City
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 1190 AM

Schrock out to improve on strong rookie season


Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock reflects positively on his rookie season. He tallied 20 goals and 31 points in 76 games, helping the Komets to a third straight championship in the IHL.

But he’s not satisfied.

“Obviously, I want to improve on that,” said Schrock, a forward who hails from Fort Wayne.

“I’m still a pretty raw player, and I’m still developing a lot. I’m a late bloomer. I think there’s still a lot I can work on. I need to take this season like I did last year, just try to learn as much as possible because my window to move up to the next level is shrinking day by day. The more I learn, the quicker I learn, the better I’ll be in this league or wherever I get the call up to.”

The Komets open their 59th season, and their first in the Central Hockey League, on Saturday against the reigning-champion Rapid City Rush at Memorial Coliseum.

With franchise-great Colin Chaulk now playing in Europe, the importance of Shrock, 25, as a stalwart defensive forward is heightened. He will be expected to mark opposing teams’ top forwards, kill penalties and score about 25 goals along the way.

Oh, and he’ll be one of the Komets’ enforcers, too, as if he didn’t have enough to worry about. He had 168 penalty minutes last season.

“That’s kind of the player I am,” Schrock said of his defense. “I know I had a decent offensive season (as a rookie), but I’m more of a defensive player. To me, the offensive output is a bonus, and something I’ll continue to work on, but my bread and butter is my physical play in the defensive zone and just making sure I get the puck out.”

The CHL is composed of typically younger players than the IHL, and the action should be faster, which will benefit the speedy Schrock. So will the officiating, which mandates less stickwork to free up the skill players.

“The refs seem to be calling all the hooking and stuff like that. It will help all the speedy guys,” said Schrock, the former captain at Neumann University, where he won a Division III national championship.

After never playing more than 26 regular-season games at Neumann, Schrock had to adjust to the professional season. But his hard work in the summer paid off with an invitation to training camp with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears.

“I just wanted to come into camp in good shape,” Schrock said. “I took some time off after last season because I’d never played that many games and I wanted to make sure my body was healed, and I hit the gym hard.

“I’ve also worked on the little things, like keeping my head up. I think that’s going to be huge this year. When I get the puck, I want to know what I’m going to do with it before I get the puck. That’s something Colin Chaulk always told me, ‘You have more time than you think and less than you’d like.’ ”

The Komets want Shrock to keep improving, and he’d like to grant that wish.