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New-look UND hockey defense passes first test

GRAND FORKS -- The first test for the University of North Dakota's new-looking defensive corps came last weekend against Canisius. Goalie Cam Johnson said they passed. UND allowed just 28 shots on goal in two games against the Golden Griffins -- ...

GRAND FORKS - The first test for the University of North Dakota's new-looking defensive corps came last weekend against Canisius.

Goalie Cam Johnson said they passed.

UND allowed just 28 shots on goal in two games against the Golden Griffins - an average of 14 per game - in earning a home sweep.

On Saturday night, UND allowed just 11 shots on goal, the lowest in a single game since 2008. Johnson stopped 10 of them.

For the weekend, the Fighting Hawks outscored Canisius 10-1.

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"They were solid, especially our young guys," Johnson said about the defensive corps. "They didn't look like they had any nerves. They played relaxed. They played smooth. They didn't make any mistakes. I think our 'D' corps was good last weekend.

"I think it starts with our leaders up there with Gage (Ausmus) and Tuck (Tucker Poolman) having experience and that trickles down to the younger guys."

UND coach Brad Berry has put his two most experienced defensemen on the top pairing together in East Grand Forks products Ausmus and Poolman.

The second pairing has been sophomores Christian Wolanin and Hayden Shaw, who both played 32 of 44 games a season ago.

The third pair has been made up of rookies.

East Grand Forks Senior High graduate Colton Poolman appears to be the No. 5 defensemen. Andrew Peski and Casey Johnson rotated the last spot, while Danys Chartrand was a healthy scratch.

They are filling voids left by Paul LaDue, Troy Stecher and Keaton Thompson, who all turned pro after their junior seasons, signing NHL contracts.

Johnson said that communication between the new defensemen has been pretty good.

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"I thought they were talking well, especially when you go out and stop a puck and play a puck," he said. "You want your 'D' talking to you. That's a critical part of the game. I thought the 'D' men did a good job talking to me and letting me know what the situation was and where to go with the puck. That's something we'll continue to work on."

Johnson, whose only goal allowed came on a Canisius power play, has a .964 save percentage after one weekend.

But he admitted he won't be fazed by seeing more shots in a game.

"I don't think people realize how difficult it actually is to play in a game like that," Johnson said of facing a low number of shots.

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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