UND goalie Cam Johnson (Photo Credit: Russell Hons Photography)
During the first four weeks of the 2017-18 season, the University of North Dakota hockey team has shown flashes of brilliance. Most of those flashes have occurred on Saturday nights. Through eight games, UND a 5-2-1 record.
During that time, UND has one series sweep against ECAC cellar dweller St. Lawrence 1-7-0. During the last four games, the Fighting Hawks have split both series against teams with a combined record of 10-6-0 (.625). This past weekend, UND split their conference-opening NCHC series with the Colorado College Tigers (1-2 L, 6-4 W).
On Friday night, UND was a step slow and looked like were skating in cement and were outplayed for two periods. Late in the second period, Shane Gersich was able to score with 30 seconds left to give UND some life. In the third period, UND was pressing but couldn’t get the game-tying goal.
On Saturday night, I thought UND took it to the Tigers. I thought the Hawks overwhelmed the Tigers with their uptempo forecheck and had a very good counterattack. The Tigers also had a hard time with zone entry.
Through eight games, a pattern has developed. UND is 1-2-1 on Friday nights, and 4-0-0 on Saturday nights. On Friday night’s UND has struggled to score goals averaging 1.25 goals per game. On Saturday nights, UND has gotten fat averaging 4.75 goals per game.
Why the goal disparity?
“Our game management when we had the lead a couple times got a little high risk there but our game was better than Friday, which has become a bit of theme for us.” UND head coach Brad Berry told the media after Saturday’s game. “It’s driving us crazy. It’s not like we don’t prepare for Friday nights. We have to make sure we do all the details of our game. We did a lot more of those details tonight.”
One subtle thing that I’ve noticed; in the two Friday night losses, a majority of UND’s shots on goal have come from the perimeter. Exhibit A, Friday’s second-period shot chart. As you can see, UND was outshot and a majority of their shots came from the perimeter. During the same time, the Tigers were putting a lot of rubber on UND goalie Cam Johnson. It could’ve been worse, if not for Johnson. More on Cam later.
During the follow-up wins on Saturday night, UND has had more shots from the slot area. Check out Saturday night’s second period against the Tigers. I know it sounds cliche’, but good things happen when you got to the blue paint. All four of the goals scored during the second period were scored from the slot area.
Yes we Cam
On Saturday night, I was reading some of the comments on the UND hockey chat and there were a couple of comments about Johnson being overrated.
I will not apologize for being a fan of Johnson’s body of work. I think that Johnson takes a lot of criticism, some of it is warranted and some of it is short-sighted. First, Johnson is one of UND’s all-time leading goalies. Johnson is second all-time in shutouts with 10. Johnson is first all-time in goals against average with a 2.04 GAA, and sixth all-time in save percentage with a .917 save percentage. In four seasons, Johnson has played in 81 games, going (49-19-6, 2.04 GAA, 917 save percentage). When Johnson wins his 50th game of his career he will be only the eighth UND goalie to do so. Let’s not forget the magical season where he helped backstop UND to an NCAA title.
Johnson has had a great start to the 2017-18 season. Through eight games, Cam is 5-2-1, 1.63 GAA and a .925 save percentage. If anything, This past weekend, I thought that Johnson was outstanding in both games and gave his team a chance to win. In eight games, Johnson has given up three or more goals only one time. The other seven games, Cam hasn’t given up more than two goals.