Goalie position turned to UND’s strength
GRAND FORKS -- The first shot in the post-Zane McIntyre era ended up in the net.So did the second shot.And the third shot.One was later disallowed because of a video review, but panic set in among the fans."Is he that bad?" one fan asked about ne...
GRAND FORKS - The first shot in the post-Zane McIntyre era ended up in the net.
So did the second shot.
And the third shot.
One was later disallowed because of a video review, but panic set in among the fans.
“Is he that bad?” one fan asked about new goalie Cam Johnson.
“This team better score a whole lot of goals with Cam in net,” another said.
“Never seen anything like this,” a third posted in a comments section. “I could do that.”
Little did anyone know, that goalie - sophomore Cam Johnson - would go on to break a 62-year-old school scoreless streak record, set a pace to have the best single-season save percentage in school history and head to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff with the best winning percentage, goals-against average and save percentage in the nation.
The laid back netminder from Troy, Mich., who fans feared would be this team’s Achilles Heel, ended up being announced Wednesday as one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award as the country’s best goalie.
Joining him are Yale’s Alex Lyon, a former Lake of the Woods standout, Boston College’s Thatcher Demko, UMass-Lowell’s Kevin Boyle and St. Cloud State’s Charlie Lindgren.
Johnson is the only sophomore on the list and the only one who wasn’t his team’s starter a year ago.
“I think it’s well deserved,” University of North Dakota coach Brad Berry said of the honor. “He’s put the hard work, preparation and detail into his game. He had a little adversity at the start of the year with his injury, but he bounced back. The biggest thing is the consistency in his game. There hasn’t really been a drop off the whole year. He’s been rock solid the whole year.”
Looking back at the opener makes UND goalie coach Karl Goehring chuckle.
He was back in Grand Forks following the game online when he found out the first three shot attempts of the season ended up in the back of the net.
“Obviously, no goaltender wants that start,” Goehring said. “It’s kind of a tough way to kick things off, but I was proud of Cam for his resiliency in that game and even early in the year. You have to consider that he had a full year of understudy under Zane. Sometimes, the first game back isn’t always easy. Certainly, he stepped up his game and got right back into it.”
Johnson missed 10 games due to a lower-body injury that he sustained in Week 2, but he quickly calmed the nerves of anxious fans when he returned.
He allowed just two goals in a sweep of Michigan State, then started a shutout streak of 298 minutes, 25 seconds, the second-longest in college hockey history and the longest since 1994.
Johnson has been particularly dominant against Friday’s opponent, Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs have scored two goals in four games against Johnson -- one off of a skate.
Johnson enters the Frozen Faceoff with a 20-3-1 record, a 1.58 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage.
“It didn’t happen by chance,” Berry said. “There are a few reasons why it happened.
“The first one is Karl Goehring being a volunteer goalie coach. He’s a guy who puts in the work. He’s a teacher and he’s a mentor. It’s great to have a guy to make sure goaltenders are sharp not only on the ice but off the ice and how they prepare.
“Cam also was fortunate enough to play with Zane McIntyre and learn from him. Zane was the ultimate in preparation. Cam learned a lot from him.”
This season hasn’t been particularly surprising for UND’s coaching staff. They expected big things when they recruited him out of the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League.
“When I saw him initially, from a goaltender’s perspective, seeing how smooth he is and seeing how he can make a lot of really difficult plays look very easy, seeing how he moves from east to west and how he stretches out his pads. . . those are things that stuck out to me,” Goehring said. “Even watching him right away during his freshman year, I knew we were fortunate to have him.”
UND also has been fortunate to have Matt Hrynkiw, who started the year as the third-stringer but seized the No. 2 job through his steady play while Johnson was injured.
Hrynkiw is 10-2-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. Together with Johnson, UND has a better team save percentage than it did a year ago.
“We always knew we had good goaltenders in here,” Berry said. “I go back to press conferences early in the year when things were just OK. Until there’s a body of work that you can’t conclusively define a goaltender. Cam has proved himself time and time again.
“Now, we’re getting to the second season. Cam and the rest of the team are going to have to prove themselves time and time again.”