He arose. Colorado College right wing Joey Crabb ripped a shot and made the mistake of admiring his work. “I was kind of lost in the shot,” Crabb said.
Alaska Anchorage right wing Justin Johnson saw his chance. Johnson crunched Crabb with a hit that was both messy and clean. Helmets cracked. Crabb caught a shoulder to the chest and crashed, flat on his back, to the ice. Big mistake, Justin. Instead of rattling Crabb, the smackdown ignited his considerable fire. Crabb rose to his feet, found the puck and then began to dance through the defense. For an instant, the puck rested between Crabb and CC star Brett Sterling. “I saw he wanted it,” Sterling said. “I saw he had a fire in his eye.” Sterling stepped back and watched Crabb end his show with a backhanded shot that zoomed past the legs of defenseman Shane Lovdahl and over the left shoulder of goaltender Mike Rosett. This first-period sequence ranked as the highlight of CC’s 6-2 victory over the hapless Seawolves Friday night at World Arena. “Oh, my,” Crabb said of the moment Johnson dropped him. “That was, seriously, the hardest I’ve been hit in a few years. He hit me super hard. I knew I had to make something happen.” Crabb’s revenge goal was typical of his recent play. During times of chaos for the Tigers, Crabb has towered as the team’s rock. He’s collected 10 goals and nine assists in the past 11 games and helped keep his troubled team afloat. This was not a win for the ages. The Seawolves (6-22-3) are not exactly mighty and have lost 17 straight in Colorado Springs. Expect the streak to climb to 18 tonight. But at this point, any triumph is sweet for CC (20-12-1). The win continues a mini-revival for the Tigers, winners of three of four after suffering through a five-game losing streak that left their season teetering. There’s still plenty of reason to worry. The Tigers faced the Seawolves without starting goaltender Matt Zaba, out with a sore knee, and center Aaron Slattengren, booted from the team this week for undisclosed academic infractions. But despite all the turmoil, the Tigers still could make serious hockey noise this season. They still could become mighty because they boast one of the best offensive trios in the country. This team can score goals. Sterling busted out of a sevengame goal drought with a hat trick, and Marty Sertich remains one of college hockey’s top playmakers. But their excellence is no surprise. Heading into the season, Sertich and Sterling dominated all conversation about the Tigers, while Crabb resided in the shadows. He wasn’t forgotten, but he also wasn’t celebrated. Now, the duo has transformed to the trio. In the twilight of his career, Crabb stands beside his celebrity teammates. “Ah,” Crabb said with a sheepish smile. “Marty and Brett are two really good hockey players, you know. If you put me in their company, it’s an honor.” No, it’s fitting. Columnist David Ramsey can be reached at 476-4895 or firstname.lastname@example.org