Brothers Johnstone Revel in High-Octane Weekend
Michigan Tech Duo Scored Six Goals in Two Games
by Jen Dobias/CHN Reporter
Jacob and David Johnstone had a weekend they won’t soon forget ... but don’t ask them to try to explain it.
“I don’t even know, just something happened,” David said, with a laugh. “Something we ate, I really couldn’t tell you. It was good weekend for us.”
It certainly was. Each Johnstone finished with three goals as the Huskies swept third-place Bowling Green at BGSU Ice Arena last weekend. With David also notching an assist on Blake Pietila’s overtime winner on Saturday, the brothers had a hand in seven of their team’s 10 tallies. That after coming into the weekend with only five goals between them.
On Friday, David opened the scoring emphatically and the Huskies never looked back. While on the man advantage at 12:08 in the first period, he roofed a blistering shot over Tomas Sholl from the bottom of the circle. He added another marker in the second as Michigan Tech went on to score more than four goals for the first time this season, defeating the Falcons, 5-2.
“David is a real catalyst for our team, and you saw that this weekend,” head coach Mel Pearson said of the younger Johnstone, who missed 15 games due to injury. “He’s a terrific offensive player, and we’ve missed him in a lot of those tight games where we could have used a goal here or there. A lot of times, David would provide that.”
If Friday was David’s night, Saturday was Jacob’s. In the back-and-forth contest, he twice evened the score in the third period. In the last four minutes of regulation, he tied the game at four to force overtime, beating Tommy Burke in close after taking a pass from Mike Neville.
A fourth-line grinder, Jacob has been in and out of the lineup all year and had only one point – a goal against Michigan State on Dec. 27 – going into the Bowling Green series.
“He’s just been a little snake bitten around the net,” Pearson said. “This weekend, the pucks went in for him. Being a senior, we’re really looking for him to have his best finish here at Michigan Tech, and when he starts scoring, that will really provide that secondary scoring we need as we go forward with the rest of the year.”
Before their 10-goal onslaught, the Huskies were averaging a meager 2.00 goals per game, tied for 53rd in the nation. They had only scored more than three goals in a game twice: in a 4-1 win over Northern Michigan on Oct. 26 and in a 4-4 tie with Bowling Green on Dec. 14. Jacob said that the sweep was a breakthrough moment for the team because they played more aggressively and confidently in the attack zone.
“Throughout the year we’ve been struggling for scoring. Guys have been gripping their sticks a little,” Jacob said. “The first game, we got off to an early lead. That enabled us to play confident with the puck and make those plays without second guessing ourselves and worrying about if it was going to be a mistake or not. Then, it carried into the next game.”
While offense has been at a premium all season, Michigan Tech has stayed in almost every game. Sixteen of the team’s 30 games were decided by only one goal, with the Huskies posting a 7-9 record in those contests. They have also played to six draws.
“I’ve been involved in college hockey for over 30 years and it’s really the first time I can remember where a team has had so many games decided by one goal or actually end up tied,” Pearson said. “It’s been a little frustrating for our team because we’ve felt a lot of games we’ve deserved better, maybe out-chanced or outplayed the opponent, and we haven’t had much to show for it. Having said that, though, I think it’s a good indication that our team is on the cusp of doing some big things because we’ve been in every game for the most part.”
The Huskies have seen how quickly fortunes can change in the WCHA. Before last weekend, they were in clear danger of missing the tournament, sitting in a tie for seventh in the league. With the sweep, they moved into a tie for fifth, though only four points separate fifth from ninth.
“You can go from third place one weekend to almost out of the playoffs,” Pearson said. “That’s how tight it is.”
Accustomed to playing in tight games, the Huskies are well aware of the difference that secondary scoring can make. And they’ll be looking for skaters throughout the lineup to step up and generate offense, like the Johnstones did, as they make their playoff push.
“One shot here or there can decide a tie, one point more in the standings, and one shot here or there and you won a game,” David said. “You just got to work through it and bounces will come, and that’s what happened. We’re working hard and we’re getting rewarded for it now so we just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”