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In the corners with Connor Crisp

By: Scott Haddow – Straight Up Sports

 | Feb 28, 2014 - 10:27 AM |
Sudbury Wolves forward Connor Crisp never hesitates to charge into the rough-and-tumble traffic areas to score a goal or dig a puck out of the corner or fight the toughest opponent to defend his teammates. Photo by Scott Haddow.

Sudbury Wolves forward Connor Crisp never hesitates to charge into the rough-and-tumble traffic areas to score a goal or dig a puck out of the corner or fight the toughest opponent to defend his teammates. Photo by Scott Haddow.

Wolves forward never backs down from a challenge

When things turn nasty and ugly in an OHL game, this is where Sudbury Wolves forward Connor Crisp can be found doing what he does best.

Crisp never hesitates to charge into the rough-and-tumble traffic areas to score a goal or dig a puck out of the corner or fight the toughest opponent to defend his teammates. Crisp gives and takes hits. Crisp gives and takes lumps. He isn’t scared. He isn’t intimidated. Crisp will never back down from anyone and will never stop playing on the edge.

It's his element.

“I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way,” the 19-year-old said.

Listed as 6-4 and 225-pounds, Crisp casts an imposing shadow in the league. He uses every inch and pound to gain leverage against defenders and opposing forwards in the battles along the boards and in front of the net. And when the time comes to back up his actions or come to the defence of a teammate, Crisp sends his gloves to the ice in a hurry and unleashes a fury of fists on whoever it is. He will not hesitate.

“It comes with the role,” Crisp said. “It is important to know your role as a player and a teammate. I took on this role as soon as I came into the league.

“I was told if I was going to make it anywhere, it was the role I had to do. It got me drafted into the NHL. I’m always going to do whatever I have to do.”

Crisp is in his fourth OHL season. He played his first three with the Erie Otters, building up a reputation as a no-nonsense, tough customer who could score some goals. Crisp is enjoying a banner season in Sudbury, with a career high 24 goals and 48 points in his first 58 games.

Crisp relishes mentioning the fact almost all his goals are scored from within one to three feet of the net. He doesn’t care who he has to go through, Crisp gets his nose dirty to score the garbage goals — goals only scored after taking a lot of cross-checks, slashes and punches to the back and head.

“For me, there is no better feeling than jamming a goal in from the goal-line or from a rebound in close,” Crisp said. “It is a great feeling to do the gritty stuff and succeed at it.”

There is no secret training for what Crisp does game-in-and-game-out. There are a lot of physical players in the OHL with rugged body frames. It isn’t about how big or strong a player is to Crisp. The scraps for the puck and space on the ice during games comes down to will.

“I want to do things not a lot of other guys want to do,” Crisp said. “I want to win every battle. It’s a mental game. I go into every game with the mindset I’m going to win every battle no matter how big the defenceman is or how powerful the forward is. I want to be the first to the puck and get it. It comes down to mentality.”

Sudbury captain Kevin Raine played against Crisp when the two were in the Western Conference, playing for London and Erie respectively. Raine never looked forward to the experience and he’s glad the two are on the same side.

“He’s a beast,” Raine said. “It is absolutely better playing with him than against him. Before, he was always down my throat asking me to fight. I always turned it down. I would rather not get my teeth caved in. What he is capable of, it is better for me I did turn him down.”

Despite the past, Raine and Crisp have become good friends during this season. Raine likes the dimension Crisp added to the club.

“No, he’s not asking me to fight anymore,” Raine said with a chuckle. “He is a good guy and one of my better buddies on the team. We hang out off the ice a lot. He has shown he is a guy willing to do anything for his teammates, whether it is dropping the gloves or scoring goals or making hits. He brings it every game.”

The Wolves acquired Crisp prior to the start of the 2013-14 season to bring leadership, brawn and goals. Crisp has lived up to his reputation and delivered on his end of the bargain.

“Connor has been a pleasant addition,” Sudbury president and GM Blaine Smith said. “He has embraced being in Sudbury. He is well liked and respected by the team. He comes to play hard and he hits hard and battles in front of the net. There are not a lot of defencemen who can handle him. Nobody likes playing against him.”

But his teammates do like playing with him — because he's the type of Wolf who makes opponents howl ...  for mercy.

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