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College men's hockey: Johnson the center of attention, leads fourth-ranked Bulldogs past No. 5 Notre Dame

The move to center seems to be working out just fine for Minnesota Duluth sophomore Adam Johnson. The wing-turned-center from Hibbing isn't happy with himself when it comes to taking faceoffs, but offensively he has little to complain about after...

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The move to center seems to be working out just fine for Minnesota Duluth sophomore Adam Johnson.

The wing-turned-center from Hibbing isn’t happy with himself when it comes to taking faceoffs, but offensively he has little to complain about after scoring twice Friday night to lead the fourth-ranked Bulldogs over No. 5 Notre Dame 4-3 in nonconference men’s hockey play in front of 5,526 fans at Amsoil Arena.

Johnson, a standout at Hibbing-Chisholm from 2009-13, was sprung loose for a breakaway via a pass by senior wing Kyle Osterberg for his first goal of the night 13:12 into the first period. Johnson finished the break by juking Fighting Irish junior goaltender Cal Peterson to give UMD a 2-1 lead.

Johnson scored the game-winner by poking the puck across the goal line 6:09 into the second period, finishing off a blast by senior defenseman Dan Molenaar that barely found its way past Peterson.

“I feel pretty good there,” Johnson said of playing center. “I like coming up the ice with speed, not always having to hang back and get the puck out. That’s a positive there. Either way, I think I’ll be good wherever (Sandelin) puts me.”

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Johnson, who as a freshman playing wing had six goals and 12 assists last season, heads into tonight’s 7:07 p.m. rematch against the Irish at Amsoil Arena tied with Osterberg and sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk of Hermantown for the team-high in goals with three. He and Osterberg are tied for second on the team in scoring with six points. Pionk leads with seven.

It’s a good start for Johnson, who in the offseason was asked to move from his natural wing position to the middle because of his previous experience in juniors and with the Bluejackets playing center. The versatile athlete also played defense at Hibbing-Chisholm when a lack of numbers necessitated the move.

UMD had to make the switch because it entered the season short a centerman with junior center Avery Peterson of Grand Rapids - formerly of Nebraska-Omaha -  ineligible until Dec. 17 due to NCAA transfer rules.

“Johnson is one of those players you can put anywhere and he’s going to do very well,” Osterberg said of his linemate. “Being a centerman, you need a lot of speed and he has it. He’s one of those smart players who also has a shot. I think moving him to center was really good.

“Just like last year and Tony (Cameranesi), his speed is unbelievable.”

The Bulldogs and Irish each scored three goals in a crazy opening 20 minutes of up-and-down hockey and all three of UMD’s first-period goals were of the highlight-reel variety.

A screen by senior center and captain Dominic Toninato of Duluth on a power play paved the way for a blast by senior defenseman Willie Raskob to get through to tie the game at 1-1. Johnson then put the Bulldogs ahead 2-1.

Senior wing Alex Iafallo gave UMD a 3-2 lead with under two minutes to play in the first by making a move going from his right to his left to get around an Irish block and score.

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“It was a good hockey game,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “I wasn’t sure after the first period. I think everybody thought it might be a 9-8 game. They’ve got a good team. They’ve got a lot of speed. I haven’t seen a period like that in a while where everybody is trading goals. It was pretty wide-open, run-and-gun hockey.”

Notre Dame took an initial 1-0 lead, then tied the game twice in the first. Two of the three Irish scores came on power plays and all three goal-scorers were able to take advantage of a less-than-ideal defensive effort by UMD to get clean shots off against UMD freshman goaltender Nick Deery.

Deery, making his second collegiate start in a row, recorded 20 saves. He finished strong making a few key stops late in the game, plus he got five blocks from those in front of him in the final 2:50 of regulation while Notre Dame was playing with an extra attacker.

UMD junior Karson Kuhlman of Esko made the last block, eating a hard-shot puck as time expired.

“I wasn’t quite sure with either goalie in the first period, but there were some pretty nice goals,” Sandelin said. “I don’t think a couple of those goals in the first were (Deery’s) fault at all. I felt we kind of left him hanging out there. More importantly, I like the saves he made, especially at the end.”

  • Freshman wing Riley Tufte made his Bulldogs debut Friday after missing the first four games with a wrist injury. He saw time on the power play late, put two shots on goal and had one minor penalty.

  • Friday’s game was delayed 12 minutes at the start due to a lighting malfunction after pregame introductions.

Notre Dame...............................3-0-0-3

Minnesota Duluth.................... 3-1-0-4

First period - 1. ND, Andrew Oglevie 2 (Cam Morrison, Jake Evans), 7:12 (pp); 2. UMD, Willie Raskob 2 (Joey Anderson), 9:03 (pp); 3. UMD, Adam Johnson 2 (Kyle Osterberg, Anderson), 13:12; 4. ND, Morrison 1 (Oglevie, Jake Evans), 15:35 (pp); 5. UMD, Alex Iafallo 2 (Dominic Toninato, Neal Pionk), 18:04; 6. ND, Anders Bjork 5 (Connor Hurley), 18:21. Penalties - Toninato, UMD (hooking), 7:04; Hurley, ND (slashing), 7:26; Riley Tufte, UMD (elbowing), 14:23; Raskob, UMD (slashing), 18:21.

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Second period - 7. UMD, Johnson 3 (Dan Molenaar, Osterberg), 6:09. Penalties - Dylan Malmquist, ND (interference) 16:14.

Third period - No scoring. Penalties - Osterberg, UMD (hooking), 0:38; Hurley, ND (high sticking), 1:55; Bjork, ND (tripping), 5:27; Blake Young, UMD (hooking), 7:42; Tory Dello, ND (slashing), 8:10; Dello, ND (holding), 13:55; Brenden Kotyk, UMD (interference), 17:11.

Shots on goal - ND 11-4-8-23; UMD 14-12-6-32. Goalies - Cal Peterson, ND (32 shots-28 saves); Nick Deery, UMD (23-20). Power plays - ND 2-of-6; UMD 1-of-6. Referees - Geno Binda, Andy Thackaberry. Linesmen - Brandon Polich, Jeff Schultz. Att. - 5,526.

Related Topics: HOCKEY
Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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