In It to Win It

In a season of ups and downs, UW junior forward Patrick Johnson isn't expected to contribute when Wisconsin heads to the Frozen Four. As long as the team wins two games, Johnson could care less as to what role he plays.

MADISON – If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around, does it make a sound? Put that phrase into hockey terms. If a player is on a team that wins a national championship but doesn't play, is he a champion?

Junior forward Patrick Johnson doesn't care, he just wants to be apart of something special, like the school's seven national title.

"It doesn't matter honestly if I play or not," Johnson said after Friday's practice. "Obviously you would love to play in the game, but who cares if we are winning? We have talent with a lot guys who can play and they are doing it right now. Hopefully they can win two more."

Johnson didn't mope when he was left out of the lineup last weekend in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournaments, a fact that was displayed when he was one of the first ones on to the ice when the final horn sounded to congratulate his teammates.

He won't mope either on Thursday if he watches Wisconsin (27-10-4) takes on Rochester Institute of Technology (28-11-1) in the national semifinal at Detroit's Ford Field.

"Being one of the last four teams is pretty cool, especially when other guys are out golfing," Johnson said. "We get to come to rink everyday and practice for a national championship. That's more important than who plays or not as far as I am concerned."

Barring an injury, the practices are as close as Johnson, according to Head Coach Mike Eaves, will get to the lineup, as the Wisconsin skipper has been pleased with what his four offensive lines have produced in the past three playoff games.

In three post seasons wins over Denver, Vermont and St. Cloud State with the current lineup, the Badgers have out scored their opponents 14-8, getting 12 of those goals from UW's four lines of offense.

Johnson, after scoring 8 goals and 13 assists his freshman season, has scored only three goals and four assists in each of the last two seasons. He hasn't scored a goal since December 4, and scored only one point since January 3.

"I've had some ups and downs," Johnson said. "I started off pretty well, but I cooled down."

But as quick as his self analysis was, his comment about the team winning flowed naturally out of mouth. It's a sense of humility, something Johnson inherited from his father Mark. In a stellar 125 game college career for Wisconsin, Mark scored 125 goals, the program's all-time goal scorer by a 17 tallies.

Mark would never tell anybody that or show off his national championship ring he won with the Badgers in 1977 or gold medal, but will tell the stories of camaraderie and teamwork that got his squad to the championship.

"I get that from him," Johnson said of his father, who will be in his stands this weekend. "He's a humble guy. He has a lot of talent and a lot of points and he wouldn't care at all, even with a ring."

Being one of three players that are expected to return for their senior season, Johnson will have plenty of time to increase his numbers and regain the production he had with the Badgers two seasons ago. After this season, Wisconsin is guaranteed to lose seven forwards and faces the real possibility of losing a couple underclassmen to the NHL.

"He knows he's been an important part of the team's success up until this point," Eaves said of Johnson. "He's come this far, he wants to be apart of something special."

That's a thought for another day, especially when a title is in the balance for Johnson and his brothers.

"Hockey is a team sport," Johnson said. "It's not like tennis where it's an individual sport. It would be awesome to play. Playing here is a great honoring because wearing the Wisconsin jersey is great. You're going to have your ups and downs, but I am looking forward to being out there with my team."


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