I talked this subject today in (3 Things from Hawks vs. Spartans) and on Saturday before the game against Michigan State . This past weekend, I had fans tweeting me about the starting goaltender. I also had fans asking me when does someone else get to play? I don’t know if they are looking at the big picture. When a hockey team is struggling to get wins, the most popular players on a hockey team are the backup goalies.
Having watched practice the past two weeks, I can say with great confidence that Johnson is UND’s best goalie. I also think it’s safe to say that Matt Hyrnkiw is the second-string goalie and has looked very good.
Now, as far as Matej Tomek goes, from the two times that I’ve watched him in practice, he hasn’t looked very good. I am not sure what is going on there. While Tomek came to UND as a highly regarded goaltender, he’s yet to get a start in net. This was partly due to a lower-body injury that kept him out of the first half of last season. I think he’s going to have to bide his time and keep working hard in practice.
I want to add an addendum, next time you get the chance, watch Tomek while he’s sitting on the UND players’ bench for home games. Backup goalie Hyrnkiw is up on the bench watching the game with his teammates while Tomek appears to be sulking on a chair not really paying attention to the game. Finally, there’s a reason that Johnson has started 45 games in a row. He gives UND the best chance to win hockey games.
Frankly, Johnson isn’t the problem with the team. You can’t pin this past weekend’s results on the goalie. There are many other issues that plague the Fighting Hawks. Are his numbers down from last season? Yes, they are. In 15 games, Johnson is 7-5-3, 2.19 GAA and .908 save percentage. Statistically, that’s a decline from last season, but I think that’s to be expected.
In the last six games, Johnson is 2-2-2, 1.64 GAA and .933 save percentage. Those aren’t bad numbers. I also believe that he’s returning to last season’s winning form.
Seriously, I know I have posted this before, but nine players from last season’s championship team (Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, Nick Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, Paul LaDue, Luke Johnson, and Keaton Thompson) are gone. That’s a lot of talent and experience that’s no longer playing with the Hawks. Moreover, three of those players (Caggiula, Schmaltz and Stecher) are currently playing in the NHL. Also, another one, Paul LaDue is on the cusp of making his NHL debut with the Los Angeles Kings.
I don’t think anyone thought that the team would only lose six games this season. If you did, that’s unrealistic. You have eight freshmen and 11 sophomores filling the roles of the nine aforementioned players above. You have very talented players filling those roles, they just need more seasoning. There’s no substitute for experience.
Brad Schlossman from the Grand Forks Herald breaks down Cam’s numbers compared to the rest of the goalie in the NCHC. You can see, Cam isn’t the problem.
Johnson’s save percentage in November of .918 was seven points higher than the second-best in the NCHC, Minnesota Duluth’s Hunter Miska’s .911. It was eight points better than third-place Tanner Jaillet (.910) of Denver.
Johnson’s goal-against average in November was 2.09—18 points higher than Jaillet’s and 54 points higher than third-place Evan Weninger of Omaha.
So, you can see that goaltending isn’t the problem. It’s the lack of goal support and special teams play.