Johnson's goaltending draws praise
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Tom Anastos was busy talking about the University of North Dakota's potent top line when, all of the sudden, another thought popped into his head."I also thought their goalie played really well," the Michigan State coach said.
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Tom Anastos was busy talking about the University of North Dakota’s potent top line when, all of the sudden, another thought popped into his head.
"I also thought their goalie played really well," the Michigan State coach said. "That goalie played as well as any goalie we've seen this year."
That goalie was UND sophomore Cam Johnson.
Johnson, making his first two starts since going out with an injury on Oct. 16, had a big weekend in his home state, leading UND to a sweep of Michigan State in Munn Ice Arena.
Johnson's numbers for the weekend were terrific: 2-0 record, .966 save percentage, 1.00 goals-against average. It was good enough to land him National Collegiate Hockey Conference goalie of the week honors for the second time this season.
More importantly, Johnson looked like the goaltender that the Fighting Hawks hoped they had all along - calm, collected, relaxed and able to make big, timely saves.
Michigan State outshot UND 11-3 to start Sunday's game, but Johnson kept the Fighting Hawks in it until the offense got revved up. The only goal he allowed in the series finale was a deflection on the power play.
Johnson, from nearby Troy, Mich., had a large cheering section that went wild when he made game-changing saves - one a glove stop late in Friday's 3-1 victory and another on a point-blank chance by Spartan captain Michael Ferrantino early Sunday.
"We didn't know what to expect," Anastos said of Johnson. "We knew he was home. We knew he was going to be hungry and motivated to play. That can go one of two ways. He made some big stops for them, some really good stops. I talk often about key moments and they won them. We didn't."
The emergence of Johnson and steady play of Matt Hrynkiw means it's unlikely that Matej Tomek will make his debut in a North Dakota jersey before Christmas. There are only two series left in the first half, then there's a three-week break until UND meets Alabama Huntsville in nonconference play on New Year's Day.
Tomek, the highly touted freshman from Slovakia, has been inching his way back toward availability and has been practicing for several weeks now, but still doesn't feel ready to go. There's no guarantee he would even play over Johnson considering the sophomore's performance last weekend.
Previously this season, UND had dominated opponents, leaving its goalies with a light workload. Johnson had to earn Sunday's victory by making a career-high 33 saves against the Spartans.
With showdowns against Denver and Minnesota Duluth coming up, he'll likely continue seeing heavier workloads. Johnson is fine with that.
"I kind of prefer that," he said. "It gets you right into the game, right off the go. I don't mind high-shot periods, because then I'm mentally dialed in. It was good to get a few saves in there early."
Johnson said it was a key weekend.
"It was huge, just getting back into rhythm and getting into the grind," he said. "Getting my confidence back was huge. It definitely helped me a lot."
The friends and family in the stands helped, too.
"It was the first time they've seen me play in a UND jersey," he said. "Playing close to home and getting two wins was awesome."