Photo credit: The Howie Blog
The art of being a defenseman in the world of hockey has changed over the years. Not all that long ago, d-men were almost in the same category as the goaltenders they protected. Their job – their one and only job – was to keep the other team from scoring. While the term “defenseman” inherently implies keeping the puck out of your net, blue liners of all levels have been collectively adding an offensive touch to their games at a rapidly growing pace, evolving right along with the sport. Enter Lane Krenzen, the newest Austin Bruins tender signing and a defenseman with a scoring touch.
Krenzen skated with the Bruins a couple of times and watched them play a home game against the Minnesota Magicians just under a month ago. From that brief time around the team, the Duluth native was paying close attention to a D-core he plans on being a part of next season.
“I think they like their defensemen to be offensive but at the same time be very responsible in the D-zone which is what a modern day DI defenseman has to do,” Krenzen said. “They’ve got a couple of guys who are big shutdown D and others who are really solid, responsible guys who can contribute offensively.”
Krenzen just finished up his high school career at Duluth Marshall, where he led the squad in assists with 28, and contributed 8 goals in 25 games. His career took a steep trajectory as a four point Freshman season quickly turned to a 15 point Sophomore campaign, then to 18 as a Junior, finally doubling from Junior to Senior year. As with every player however, he knows that his high school to NAHL transition isn’t one to be taken lightly.
“I think you can get away in high school a little bit with being just slightly less solid defensively,” Krenzen said. I’m usually pretty solid defensively but you don’t have to bear down quite as much because in high school not everyone’s as good of a skater as the next guy. In Juniors, there’s no opposition where you can take the other guy lightly.”
While the Bruins have two defensemen with a respectable 20 points this season (Paul O’Connor and Marcus Karlstrom), the D-core have combined to score just 9 goals, as the Bruins get set for game #54 of 60 on Thursday. Karlstrom ages out after this year and O’Connor will be entering his final season of eligibility, so Krenzen’s offensive touch will be welcomed on the Bruins blue line.
The tender process moved much faster than Krenzen expected, starting with an initial conversation with Bruins assistant coach Brad Clayton, a visit to Austin, and then an offer from head coach/general manager Kyle Grabowski within a few days.
“I’ve told everyone that’s asked me about it – I love Riverside Arena,” Krenzen said. “It’s a really good atmosphere and I like the ice surface. Also, the group of guys really had a big impact on me as to why I chose to sign right away because they make you feel welcome really quick.”
With O’Connor, Griff Slightam, Charlie Spetz, Dalton Gally, John Pesek, and Ian Beck all eligible to return for next season on the Bruins defense, Krenzen knows that nothing will be handed to him.
“I’ve definitely got to stay in the weight room, work on my skating. I think the biggest thing is to play confident,” he said. “I think especially with a young group of guys, experience breeds confidence. If you play confident I think that’s the key separator.”
Most of all, Krenzen thinks it’s important to stay true to who he is a hockey player, even with all the challenges that will inevitably come his way.
“I’m going to try to continue my offensive style. I want to try and add to an offensive presence at the blue line if I can,” Krenzen said. “But at the same time I want to be a very responsible shutdown defenseman who can play in any last minute situation.”