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Star UND goalies hail from same Michigan hometown

GRAND FORKS -- Interstate 75 cuts through downtown Detroit. As you head north, you'll go past Comerica Park and Ford Field, home of the Detroit Tigers and Lions. Then, you'll go past Wayne State University, veer through north end neighborhoods, a...

University of North Dakota goalie Lexie Shaw (29) tends the net during in the first period of Friday's game against the Bemidji state Beavers at Ralph Engelstad Arena on October 28, 2016 in Grand Forks, N.D. . (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
University of North Dakota goalie Lexie Shaw (29) tends the net during in the first period of Friday's game against the Bemidji state Beavers at Ralph Engelstad Arena on October 28, 2016 in Grand Forks, N.D. . (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

GRAND FORKS - Interstate 75 cuts through downtown Detroit.

As you head north, you'll go past Comerica Park and Ford Field, home of the Detroit Tigers and Lions.

Then, you'll go past Wayne State University, veer through north end neighborhoods, and, after about 25 minutes, end up in the town of Troy, Mich.

"Troy is the hood," said University of North Dakota junior goalie Cam Johnson, who was born and raised there.

Johnson can only hold a straight face for a few seconds. Then, he laughs and tells the truth.

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"It's a nice city," he said. "It's about a half hour from Detroit. I always joke that I'm from Detroit, but it's not anything close to what Detroit is. It's a nice city."

Troy has been a very nice city to the UND hockey program.

The star goalies on both the Fighting Hawks men's and women's hockey teams-Cam Johnson and Lexie Shaw-grew up about a mile apart in this town of roughly 80,000 people.

The UND men landed Cam Johnson after not a single one of Michigan's seven NCAA Division I programs showed interest during the recruiting process.

All of them, including this weekend's opponent, Michigan State, watched Johnson lead UND to the national championship a season ago. In the last four years, Johnson has more NCAA tournament victories than all seven Michigan D-I programs combined.

"I think I like playing Michigan teams because they all overlooked me," Johnson said. "I actually didn't even talk to any Michigan teams when I was in the recruiting process. I always have a little chip on my shoulder when we play them."

The UND women also landed Lexie Shaw without any competition from Michigan schools. That's because Michigan, despite being one of America's hockey hotbeds does not have a single Division I program in the state.

Although many of her teammates from her national champion Honeybaked team went to Boston College, Shaw carved out her own path to North Dakota.

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"If there was a D-I program in the state (of Michigan), yeah, we probably wouldn't get a kid like that, to be honest with you," UND women's coach Brian Idalski said.

Johnson and Shaw actually didn't really know each other growing up, despite being just a year apart, living a few blocks away and playing the same position in the same sport.

"Her older brother played with my older brother," Johnson said.

But that was about it.

They got to know each other at UND, where they both managed to fill the large shoes of their predecessors to become stars in their own right.

Cam Johnson

Prior to Johnson's arrival on campus in the fall of 2014, UND had only recruited four players from Michigan in the 68 years of the program-Michael Brickey and Marty Schreiner of Port Huron, Akil Adams of Detroit and Matt Greene of Grand Ledge.

Johnson is UND's first goalie from the state.

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As a freshman, he served as a backup to Zane McIntyre, who went on to win the Mike Richter Award as college hockey's top goalie and is now with the Boston Bruins.

But he burst onto the scene as a sophomore, setting a school record for save percentage (.935) and posting the second-longest scoreless streak in college hockey history at 298:25. Johnson was the MVP of the Midwest Regional, leading UND to the Frozen Four, where it eventually won its eighth national championship.

While this season started slow for the junior, Johnson is catching fire again. He posted back-to-back shutouts at St. Cloud State last weekend and will enter Friday night on a scoreless streak of 153:35.

Johnson has punished Michigan teams for not recruiting him. Last season, he went 7-0-0 with a 1.53 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage against teams from the state. That included a two-game sweep of the Spartans in East Lansing on Thanksgiving weekend.

Lexie Shaw

Prior to securing a commitment from Shaw, UND only had recruited two players from the state of Michigan-Abbey Strong of Houghton and Margot Miller of West Bloomfield.

Shaw is the first goalie from Michigan.

While she earned sporadic starts the last three seasons, Shaw was stationed behind two-time Patty Kazmaier Award finalist Shelby Amsley-Benzie.

She became the go-to goalie as a senior this season and has taken off.

Shaw enters this weekend's series against Syracuse with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage-better numbers than Amsley-Benzie's from last season.

"I knew that Lexie was a quality goaltender," Idalski said. "She's a U18 goaltender. She's played with the U22s. We knew Lexie was a player. It just so happened she played behind another outstanding goaltender for a couple years.

"I really think just being the No. 1 kid cleared things up for her and made things a lot easier coming to the rink and not getting caught up competing every day to try to get that spot. Knowing it is hers made the game a lot easier for her."

University of North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson (33) stops a puck during the second period of Saturday's game against Bemidji State at Ralph Engelstad Arena on October 22, 2016 in Grand Forks, N.D. . (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
University of North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson (33) stops a puck during the second period of Saturday's game against Bemidji State at Ralph Engelstad Arena on October 22, 2016 in Grand Forks, N.D. . (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

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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