Last season, University of North Dakota starting goalie Cam Johnson won All-American honors going 24-4-2, 1.66 GAA and a .935 save percentage. This year, Johnson’s numbers aren’t as impressive, but they’re not bad either. In 25 games, he’s 14-8-3, 2.25 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
Down the stretch, the Fighting Hawks are going to need solid play from their All-American goalie. Johnson recently returned from an undisclosed lower-body injury that kept him out of four games. He’s back and chopping at the bit. During the last eight games, Johnson is 5-2-0, 2.49 GAA and .903 save percentage. Johnson is looking to improve on those numbers and backstop his team to another run in the NCAA playoffs.
Johnson’s Numbers Have Dropped off a Bit
With all of the departures on defense, Johnson’s numbers have dropped off a bit. Outside of a couple of poor performances, most of the time, Johnson has been pretty consistent.
“I think the biggest thing that we see from Cam (Johnson) is consistency,” UND head coach Brad Berry said. “Over his body of work from last year to this year, I don’t think it’s deviated a whole lot (from last year). Obviously, his numbers aren’t as good as they were last year, but I think his play has been pretty consistent.
“You saw it on Saturday night (against the Huskies) when a guy comes in… when the game is on the line, in the third period, you’ve got make a save or two. That’s what he’s been doing.
Barry continued, “During the year at certain times, he might not have the goal support that he needs. Sometimes there have been goals that were freakishly unlucky. His body of work has been good through the whole year, he’s consistent and that’s what you need.”
UND is a Different Team
Missing from last season’s championship team are three experienced defensemen (Paul LaDue, Keaton Thompson, and Troy Stecher). Those three veterans chose to forego their college eligibility and sign professional contracts. They’ve been replaced by three rookie defensemen (Casey Johnson, Andrew Peski, and Colton Poolman). With that in mind, I asked the head coach that if his Johnson has faced more grade-A opportunities this season than last?
“I would agree, early on we gave up a lot of outnumbered and grade-A (opportunities),” Berry said. “Later in the first half and in the second half (of the season), we’ve cut down the outnumbered and the grade-As in front of him. He still gets a few of them in every game, but not nearly what he had early in the season. I think that’s attributed to a team that grown and played better away from the puck.”
Checking in With Cam Johnson
During the bye week, I had an opportunity to talk to Johnson. I asked him if he thought he’d played better this year? Johnson is also very candid and straightforward, so I think you’ll like his answers. Despite some rough patches, he’s been more hit than miss.
“I think it’s hit or miss, Johnson said. “I know there are some games where I’ve played very well. There are other games that I didn’t play up to par. Overall, I do feel more comfortable this year. There’re certain games where maybe we give up a couple of opportunities early and I get scored on early. That kind of dwells on me, because I hate giving up goals.
“For the most part, I don’t think I’ve had a bad year. I’ve had an off-year when you look at my stats. But we’ve got a completely different team. Like you said, we’ve got young guys on the backend. It’s a tough game and we play in a tough league. We play against a lot of really good teams. We’re giving up a lot of chances and we’re giving up goals. It’s something I can’t get upset about.”
Hockey is a Team Game
This season, with all the younger players on the blue line, there’s going to on-ice mistakes. Johnson realizes that hockey is a team game and he’s more concerned with team goals than personal numbers. Johnson is quick to give his teammates credit.
“It’s a team effort and I know guys are out there and playing their hardest,” Johnson said. “It’s just all about guys figuring out the pace and figuring how hard good our league is and how tough teams are and how hard it is to win games.
“I think I’ve played well this year. There’s obviously a few games I want back but look at a few games where I gave up three or four goals, (but for the most part) I’ve been pretty happy with how I played. I don’t think I’ve given up (too many) really bad goals.”
Finally, with all of the changes this year, there’s going to be some growing pains. Personal statistics are going to suffer a bit. Good teammates realize that and take it in stride.
“For the most part, I don’t think I’ve played bad this year, Johnson said. “My numbers aren’t what I wished they’d be. Losing a lot of key players like we did last year. Even losing Cag (Drake Caggiula) and (Nick) Schmaltz up front, when they were on the ice they were the offensive zone the whole time. It’s just losing key guys and guys trying to figure out how tough it is to play college hockey.
“I don’t think I’ve had a bad this year. I wish my numbers are where a little bit better, but there’s just are a couple of games that hurt me this year.”
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.