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Game-changing saves by Cam Johnson key to weekend sweep of St. Cloud State

ST. CLOUD, Minn.--Judd Peterson entered the zone all alone. St. Cloud State's leading scorer had slipped far behind North Dakota''s defenders and had enough time to pull off any move he wanted. He faked a shot to get UND goalie Cam Johnson to the...

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University of North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson deflects a shot by St. Cloud State's Nick Poehling during the first period Friday, Nov. 18, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

ST. CLOUD, Minn.-Judd Peterson entered the zone all alone.

St. Cloud State's leading scorer had slipped far behind North Dakota''s defenders and had enough time to pull off any move he wanted.

He faked a shot to get UND goalie Cam Johnson to the ground. Then, he moved the puck to his forehand and skated to the side of the crease.

Johnson was out of the play, face down in the middle of the crease. But he stuck his left leg out and prayed.

"I didn't know where the puck was," Johnson said.

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Peterson tried to lift the puck over the pad.

"I knew he didn't score because I didn't hear the fans go wild," Johnson said.

The UND junior goalie made the save.

And instead of it becoming a one-goal game early in the third period, his teammates took the puck the other way and Hayden Shaw set up Shane Gersich for a goal to put the Fighting Hawks up 3-0.

The save on Peterson was one of several timely stops made by Johnson over the weekend, allowing UND to build leads and ultimately earn its first sweep of St. Cloud State in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center since 1998.

Johnson stopped all 62 St. Cloud State shots on the weekend, becoming the first goalie ever to post back-to-back shutouts of the Huskies during their Division I era, which started in 1987.

His stops frequently came at big times.

On Friday night, with UND holding a 1-0 lead in the second period, he withstood an onslaught of pressure by the Huskies. The sustained pressure ended when Tucker Poolman intercepted a puck and passed it to Ludvig Hoff, who skated the other way and sniped a goal to make it 2-0.

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"I think Cam has been playing like that all year," UND captain Gage Ausmus said. "I think we helped him out a lot more this weekend and played better team defense, which we need to continue to do."

Johnson, who entered the weekend with an .895 save percentage, raised that by .20 points in two games in St. Cloud.

It was only the third time in school history that a UND goalie posted back-to-back shutouts on the road on the same weekend. Johnson is responsible for two of the three. He did the same at Minnesota Duluth last season.

"Good weekend for the stats," Johnson said with a laugh. "I wish they all came like that.

"Big weekend for the group and big weekend for myself."

There wasn't a lot of concern within the team about Johnson during UND's six-game winless streak. After leading UND to the national championship last season and setting the program's single-season save percentage record, Johnson earned the status as the unquestioned No. 1 goalie on the team.

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the last time that Johnson did not start a game in net for UND. Matt Hrynkiw started that game in St. Cloud. Johnson relieved him in the second period and has started every game since.

His run of 43 straight starts is the second-longest in program history, only behind Jean-Philippe Lamoureux's run of 55 straight (2006-08).

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His teammates seemed more concerned about their play around the goalie. That significantly improved last weekend.

"Our 'D' were playing unbelievable and not giving them very many high-quality chances," forward Austin Poganski said. "But when there were high-quality chances, like the breakaway in the third period there, he made huge saves that gave us momentum. Cam was playing great for us. We need that the rest of the year."

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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