Grand Forks, ND — UND freshman defenseman Brent Johnson hasn’t played a lot this season due to injury and the depth of the players in front of him. The Freshman from Frisco, Texas has played in 12 of UND’s 28 games. When he has been in the lineup, he’s been used mostly as the extra d-man or in the third pairing. On Saturday afternoon he found out that defenseman Cooper Moore had received a one-game suspension from the NCHC, it was inevitable he was going to get more playing time.
“Yeah, I think he (Moore) texted the group chat and said that he did get a suspension,” Johnson said. “He said to ‘play hard tonight to everybody that was in.’ like I said next man up mentality.”
Not only would Johnson play regular minutes, but he would also score the first goal of his collegiate career. At the 11:44 mark of the second period, Johnson would blast a shot from the top of the right faceoff dot. Forwards Jake Schmaltz and Carson Albrecht would draw the assists.
“I just shot it and the guy kind of came across me and I just saw the crowd stand up and the horn went off,” Johnson said. “So I figured it went in obviously. So, It was pretty cool.”
Finally, Johnson’s his first college goal. “I’ll remember that forever,” Johnson said.
From what I can tell, Johnson is the first player from the state of Texas to score a goal for the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team. I asked if he was aware of that?
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Johnson said. “Honestly, I didn’t even think about that, definitely a cool milestone to have and a good title to have. So it’s an honor for sure.”
It was a great night for the boys in green and white even though they played shorthanded with 17 skaters and five d-men. UND head coach Brad Berry would rather play with a full lineup. In youth hockey, it might be ideal, but for college hockey, it’s not.
“In youth hockey it’s fun,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “When you’re playing high-end college hockey on back-to-back nights, it’s tough.”
It was a game of storylines. Three of UND’s four goals were scored by Freshmen, Matteo Costantini, Jackson Kunz, and Johson. Redhot UND junior defenseman Ethan Frisch would score the game-winning goal on the power play. That Frisch’s fifth goal in the last six games. Frisch is ninth on the team in scoring (7g-5a–12pts). Five of his goals have been on the power play.
Graduate Student goalie Zach Driscoll stopped all 23 shots that he faced to record the second shutout of the season. For his career, Driscoll has 12 shutouts with three collegiate teams. Since retaking the staring position, Driscoll seems more focused and determined.
“Obviously, I wasn’t really playing how I wanted to play at the start of the year,” Driscoll said. Helly (Jakob Hellsten) is an unbelievable kid, and we push each other in practice along with the other goalies. I don’t think it’s really ever been down and out. I know what I can do. I’ve never been down in the dumps. Just keep your nose down, and keep working, eventually, I’ll get the opportunity and gotta run with it.”
“He’s (Driscoll) a fifth-year guy, and I think that’s a big deal,” Berry said. “When you sit out a game … to Jakob Hellsten’s credit he was playing well in practice and wanted to get an opportunity. We gave him an opportunity. Zach patiently waited until he got his opportunity. He wasn’t moaning or he wasn’t being a bad teammate. He supported Jakob, and he waited for his opportunity and he was focused. He wants to net he wants to take the net.”
It was a good series win for the Fighting Hawks.
“We’re sort of getting desperate for those points,” Graduate forward Connor Ford said. “It was a great team effort to close one out and kind of grow as a team this weekend.”
Next weekend, UND travels to Minnesota-Duluth to take on the Bulldogs in a pivotal two-game conference series.