What is in a Name

Wisconsin's freshman defenseman Craig Johnson had a weekend to remember in Houghton, Michigan, scoring his first goal and starting a new chapter.

HOUGHTON, Mich. – The last name ‘Johnson' and Wisconsin men's hockey have been synonymous with one another for decades.

From father "Badger Bob' Johnson to son Mark Johnson to son Patrick Johnson, the name has been a welcomed site and topic of discussion in Madison.

This past weekend, a new, unrelated Johnson added his name to the list, beginning to etch his legacy into the Badger hockey program.

Little-known freshman Craig Johnson delivered a pungent third-period goal in Wisconsin's 4-1 Saturday night over Michigan Tech that proved to be the key goal, extending Wisconsin's lead to two goals and giving UW the swing they needed.

"Everyone else said it was a snipe," said Johnson of his wrist shot that fooled Tech goalie Rob Nolan. "I'll take a snipe. If they're going to call it a snipe, I'll take it."

But in the grand scheme of things, the goal was a big one for Johnson, as he became the last of the eight Badger freshmen to score his first career goal this season.

"I just told myself to just bury it (and) get that stress off me," Johnson said, scoring goal number one on only his third-career shot. "First career point as a Badger and everyone just gave me some love and it was awesome."

Starting the season as the seventh defenseman in a six-man rotation in the first half of the season, a back injury to fellow freshman Brendan Smith resulted in Johnson playing 13 games to date.

Coupled with being one of the most improved players on Wisconsin's roster, it was no surprise that Johnson's return to the bench after scoring the goal brought forth a mobbing by teammates, giving him high fives and banging on his equipment as he was handed the puck.

"He's playing to his strengths and you can see by the reaction on the bench that they were real happy for him," head coach Mike Eaves said. "He got the puck and the game puck for his goal."

Although there was plenty of fanfare between him and his teammates, word of Johnson's first collegiate goal did not spread as quickly. With the game not be televised by any network, only the few hundred Badger fans in attendance realized the accomplishment and the defenseman had only two voicemails on his phone 30 minutes after the game.

But the Johnson family was able to get the play-by-play by Craig's older brother, Carl, and his best friend, who came up to Houghton for the series.

"It was nice to have some family in the building to experience this," Johnson said.

Johnson's goal was the cherry on top for his best weekend as a Badger. Playing extended minutes the night before, Eaves was so pleased with Johnson's aggressiveness in the third period that the UW head coach kept him and linemate Cody Goloubef in the shift rotation in overtime.

"I talked to (assistant coach Mark) Osiecki after the game and he said both Cody and (Craig) played well the entire game," Eaves said. "When they do that, you have confidence to put them out in a key situation like it was in the third period."

Since taking over for Smith, Goloubef and Johnson have developed a connection on Wisconsin's third defensive line that is starting to pay dividends, as Goloubef scored UW's second Saturday night goal.

"It's been our fourth weekend together and we are getting more comfortable with each other," Johnson said. "I know what he expects from me and what I expect from him. We're going to see a lot more ice time being freshmen."

From reserve to third-line defense to the most important goal of the weekend, Johnson continues to make strides for the Wisconsin defense, starting a new ‘Johnson' family chapter.

"He's come so far already since he got here on how he skates and handles the puck," classmate Sean Dolan said. "He sticks his stick in and works hard every day, practicing everyday and working at things. For him to get that goal, and an easy goal, his confidence has to get that much higher."


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