"We just got back this morning at 9 a.m. We took the redeye (flight) last night out of L.A. We played Northeastern twice out in Long Beach, Calif. The reason we played out in California, Chanda Gunn who was part of the Badger program the first year it started here as a goaltender and then transferred to Northeastern, her father owns a couple of rinks and is a business man out in that community. They (Northeastern) have probably four or five players from California on the team. It really gave us an opportunity to promote women's hockey in a different part of the country and as the weekend progressed, it was a real positive experience I think for both hockey clubs and for the people who had a chance to come and watch us play. There were several youth teams there. We had a chance, both (Northeastern coach) Joy Woog and myself, to speak to groups after our games and as we left the rink yesterday, I think a lot of people were impressed with Division I college hockey. So it was a real good opportunity for us to showcase women's hockey in a different part of the country. As far as our games were concerned, my biggest concern was that we hadn't played a game in a month. It was our first games back from winter break and I didn't know what was going to happen. We had practice and it was hard, but you need competition and you need games. In both games (against Northeastern), we played extremely well. We just ran into, what we call in the hockey world, the X factor. Chanda, who's playing in front of her father, playing in front of her friends and her peers, made 57 saves the first day and then made 49 more saves yesterday in our game. We ended up tying both games, 1-1 on Saturday and 2-2 yesterday. So, we played well and lot of good things came out of the weekend, other then we didn't get our Ws. We made progress and hopefully we're going to get ourselves prepared for this weekend because the challenge this weekend is going to be one that has real bearings on what might happen at the end of the season. Right before our winter break, we played Duluth up in their rink. We lost the first night and ended up beating them the second night. All of the games that I have been involved with Shannon (Miller, UMD's coach) have been tight. They have been highly contested and very intense and I don't think anything is going to be different Saturday and Sunday afternoon (at the Kohl Center). They should be two real good hockey games and like I say, the bearings as far as what might happen at the end of the year could be really impacted by the outcomes this following Saturday and Sunday's games."
Have you seen any of the movie, "Miracle", coming out? And if so, how do you think you were portrayed on the big screen?
"Well, I think the gentleman Eric (actor Eric Peter-Kaiser) who's playing me is a lot better looking than I was back then (laughing). No, in fact right before I went to California, I took my two daughters to a movie and we're sitting there eating popcorn and getting ready for the show to begin and the premiere came up and part of the premiere was ‘What's Your Name?' and the guy says ‘Mark Johnson' and my daughter jumps up in the middle of the theatre and says ‘Hey Dad! That's you!' So we got a pretty good laugh out of it. I haven't seen much of it other than what maybe you have seen if you have gone to the movie theatre. I know on Feb. 6, it's going to debut around the country and that Monday, they are going to have a premiere out in Hollywood that I will be taking part in, along with the other members of the team. So I'm anxious to see just like everybody else, because I have heard a lot about it. I have talked to the guy who played me while they were filming it and going over different scenes and what I might do in certain situations, but I have not seen the final product, so I'm anxious to see what comes out of it."
Mark, is Duluth … are they the bad girls of the WCHA? Is that safe to say?
"If you ask Shannon, I think they think they are. The one thing they have is that they have good hockey players. And if you are going to have a chance to beat them, you have to be at the top of your game. It starts with Caroline Ouellette, who's probably Canada's top-returning Olympic gold medalist and then you go to Jenny Potter, who's one of our best American players. From there, they've got a new goaltender from Switzerland (Ritta Schaublin) who's about 6-3 and covers a lot of the net. They just have a good team and when you're three-time defending national champions, I think a lot of other groups might be a little bit jealous and whatnot. But they play a real solid, tough brand of hockey. They'll run a lot of picks, they'll run a lot of interference. Their skill level is very high, so they might consider themselves ‘bad boys' but that's Shannon. She likes to get on the referees quite a bit too."
Goaltending was a question mark coming in. It seems now that if you look at numbers, your goalies have done a pretty good job. Is that true?
"They've done pretty well. In the two games we played out west, I think a goaltender might tell you that they like to get maybe 25 to 30 shots compared to eight or nine or 10. That's what happened in yesterday's game. We had the puck in the third period down in Northeastern's end for about nine straight minutes and they come down and take one shot and it went in. You know you're sitting down there and the rink's cold and you're not getting much action, but overall all our goaltenders have played well. I've been impressed with them. The games where we really needed them, our games up in Duluth and our games earlier in the year against Minnesota, hopefully they are going to be up for the task this weekend, because we are certainly going to get tested."