This is the year David Johnson and his Bloomington Kennedy teammates have been waiting for.
The past two decades have seen a notable lack of postseason hockey success. Kennedy won the boys’ hockey state championship in 1987 but has not made it back to the state tournament since back-to-back appearances in 1990 and 1991.
Things could change this year, however. The Eagles have a veteran, skilled nucleus returning, led by senior goaltender Johnson, and expectations are high.
“We’ve been hearing since youth hockey that this is the group people have been waiting for,” said Johnson, who played all but 10 minutes of the 2013-13 season in goal. “We think it’s our year to go to the Xcel Center.”
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with Johnson about his heavy workload, a well-remembered rare occurrence and the real reason he became a goaltender.
Q: How big is this season?
A: We’ve been waiting for this year nonstop since last season. The anticipation is like nothing we’ve ever felt before. We’ve talked about it so much that it’s nice that it’s finally here.
Q: Kennedy won 10 games last year. Can you build upon that?
A: Last year was a big step up for us. We doubled our wins from the previous year. We had a tough 3-0 loss to Burnsville in the section playoffs. It made us feel like we could have pulled that one out.
Q: Did your heavy workload last year take a toll on you?
A: Not really. I love facing 40, 50 shots a game. I eat that up. I’d rather play here and face some more shots than at some place like Edina, where you only see 10 to 15 shots per game. There’s no fun in that.
Q: Kennedy is moving down from Class 2A to Class 1A this year. Is that good or bad?
A: It’s kind of bittersweet. Everyone always wants the Class 2A ring. I really like competing against the Class 2A teams during the regular season. But then we get the Class 1A teams in the sections, and if that helps us get to the Xcel Center, then I’m fine with that. A ring is a ring.
Q: You’re one of the few goalies who can say you scored a goal. Tell me about it.
A: It was in my sophomore year. I didn’t actually shoot the puck. The other team had pulled their goalie on a delayed penalty. I stopped a shot with my pads. The player on the other team pick up the puck and tried to pass it back. It took a funny bounce and went all the way into the empty net.
Q: Does anybody still talk about it?
A: People will bring it up from time to time.
Q: Why play goalie?
A: To be honest, it was because the pads looked really cool. And there’s more flair to making a dramatic glove save than scoring a goal. You get the chance to make big, game-saving saves more frequently than game-winning goals.
Q: Biggest asset for a goalie?
A: Short-term memory loss. As I progress as a goalie, I forget more and more. Teammates will be talking about something that happened three years ago and I’ll say “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”