College Men's Hockey: Patience key for Johnson
Waiting your turn isn't easy when the clock is ticking. Minnesota Duluth goalie Josh Johnson of Esko watched the first five weeks of his senior season elapse while playing backup to freshman star Alex Stalock. Johnson missed a scheduled start in ...
Waiting your turn isn't easy when the clock is ticking.
Minnesota Duluth goalie Josh Johnson of Esko watched the first five weeks of his senior season elapse while playing backup to freshman star Alex Stalock.
Johnson missed a scheduled start in that stretch because of an injury, then got his first call Nov. 15 at Northern Michigan. UMD won 6-4. He had to wait another month for another start, a 3-1 loss at Minnesota State-Mankato, in which he was UMD's best player.
That began a rotation that's continued for four weeks -- the best four weeks of UMD's season. Johnson on Friday and Stalock on Saturday is expected to continue for a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series opening today at No. 3-ranked St. Cloud State.
"You always think you can help your team, and when you're not playing it's hard to accept," said Johnson, in his fourth UMD season. "But you have to know your role and you can't get frustrated. You know that anything can happen and you always have to be ready.
"The best thing for me is that I enjoy being around the guys on our team and I enjoy coming to practice."
Johnson, 22, is 3-2 this season with a 2.91 goals-against average and .887 save percentage. His career totals are 17-15-2, 3.05 and .893.
Stalock, 19, from South St. Paul, was destined to get considerable playing time as a rookie. He was the 2006 United States Hockey League goalie of the year and 2005 league playoff MVP while with Cedar Rapids (Iowa). He's played more minutes this season than every WCHA goalie except Wisconsin All-American Brian Elliott, and has marks of 3.14 and .889.
Yet, coach Scott Sandelin decided to lighten the freshman's workload and get his senior into the lineup as the Bulldogs struggled in the season's first half.
"Josh is a great example for any athlete -- work hard in practice and stay ready for your opportunity. That's a great lesson," Sandelin said. "Sometimes the only gauge a coach has is what you see at practice and Josh treats practice like a game.
"He's got experience, he's proven he can win at this level, and he's been ready to play when we've needed him."
UMD (8-14-3) is 4-3 during the recent goalie rotation (4-1 the last five games, with each goalie winning twice). The Bulldogs will need to continue to improve defensively to have any chance of climbing up from a ninth-place tie in the WCHA with 10 games left.
UMD is ninth among 10 WCHA teams in goals allowed in all games at 3.36, while averaging just 2.72 on offense.
"We started the season with a lot of confidence, then fell into a slump and our Christmas break came at a good time. We needed that,'' said Johnson, who split time the previous three seasons with Isaac Reichmuth. "All of us went home, and looked in the mirror, and thought about what needed to change. We came back and there's been almost a 180-degree turnaround."
Ziegelmann at No. 3
UMD's high point last season was a WCHA first-round playoff win at Denver led by goalie Nate Ziegelmann. The Bulldogs eliminated the two-time defending Division I champion Pioneers in three games before losing to St. Cloud State in the WCHA Final Five play-in game.
Ziegelmann, who got on a hot streak, started the final five games of the season and in that stretch had marks of 2.80 and .906.
However, he's gone from starter to backup in a three-goalie lineup in 2006-07. The junior from Grand Forks, N.D., played a period of UMD's opening exhibition home win over Lakehead University and has since been out of any rotation. He's suited up for all home games and made road trips to Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan, but has yet to play.
"Coach [Sandelin] comes by every so often and says he likes what he sees in practice and to not get too discouraged," Ziegelmann said. "I've been given a great opportunity of going to school here and getting a great education because of hockey, and I feel if I didn't work hard at practice I'd be cheating myself."
Sandelin notes that having three decent goalies is a good situation in one sense, but difficult because all three can't play.
"As competitive as I am, I'd rather be playing, but you also have to realize what's in the best interest of the team," said Ziegelmann, who started seven games last season.