Lucas at Large: Like coach, Johnson's Badgers can score

Crossing paths Monday outside the Camp Randall Stadium media room, UW women's hockey coach Mark Johnson and men's coach Mike Eaves exchanged NHL flashbacks much to the amusement of Badger football offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Dave Doeren.

Eaves spoke of a collision with New York Rangers defenseman Barry "Bubba" Beck (6-3, 215) - the equivalent of a decleater - the impact of which lifted Eaves' skates off the ice. The result was a concussion during which for 90-minutes following the game Eaves was in another world.

Johnson, who carried less than 170 pounds on his 5-10 frame, recalled getting run over at the blue line by Boston Bruins behemoth Gord Kluzak, who dwarfed most players in the league back then.

"When I got back to the bench,'' Johnson recounted, "our trainer came over and asked, 'How much time is left in the period?' I looked up and said, 'On which clock. I see three of them.'"

 Concussions, of course, are no laughing matter. Not then. Not now. No one is more painfully aware of that than Eaves, who had a string of concussions as a pro; and Johnson, whose son, Patrick, is just coming off a concussion. Patrick Johnson (5-9, 158) is a senior forward on Eaves' team.

"After Patrick went through the testing on Monday and Tuesday of last week, he started skating again Wednesday," Mark Johnson said. "He felt pretty good and he was fortunate enough to get back in the lineup this past weekend at Denver. We have a great medical staff and a protocol to follow.

"It's no different with our female players. The emphasis now is to make sure you follow the protocol and if the player is not ready to return - irrelevant of the importance of that player to your team - they're not going to let them play."

Both the men and women will be playing this weekend at the Kohl Center. Johnson and his No. 1 ranked team will take on Minnesota State at 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday afternoon. Eaves will see how his players respond in their first WCHA home series against Michigan Tech at 7 p.m. both nights.

To this point, Johnson has to be pleased with his offense given that three different players have already recorded hat tricks: Hilary Knight against RPI; Carolyne Prevost against Bemidji State; and Brianna Decker against Ohio State in a 6-5 overtime win over the Buckeyes last Friday night.

How would Johnson define a natural goal-scorer?

"I look at a Dany Heatley when he first came here as a freshman," Johnson said of the former UW winger, who scored 28 and 24 goals in his two college seasons. Heatley, now a member of the San Jose Sharks, twice scored 50 goals for the Ottawa Senators.

"In his first practice, you'd put him through certain drills and you could see that he had the ability to get the puck, release it quickly and he had an idea of where it was going. You need a combination of those attributes and also hockey sense: where to go, and how to get there."

Mark Johnson had all of the above.

So, who was the most accomplished natural goal-scorer he ever played with?

"Blaine Stoughton in Hartford - he was as good as Mike Bossy (the old New York Islanders' sniper)," Johnson said. "Stoughton's perfect season would be 50 goals and zero assists. He had that knack within the faceoff circles; he could put the puck in the net better than a lot of people."

Does Johnson have any natural goal-scorers on his current team?

On paper, the answer would appear to be yes.

At least from a statistical standpoint.

Through six games, Knight and Prevost each have seven goals.

Decker, Meghan Duggan, and Brittany Ammerman have four goals apiece.

"I think she's becoming a better goal-scorer," Johnson said of Knight, who along with Duggan, played for Johnson on the Olympic team last season. "If you create a lot of scoring opportunities eventually the puck is going to go in. She had 15 shots on net Saturday.

"She has presence. She's big, strong, powerful and she can skate. Her shot is good. She can beat goaltenders from anywhere on the ice. For a lot of females, you can't say that. You can about her.

"Carolyne is totally different than Hillary. She's not going to beat you from 20 to 25 feet with a shot. But she's going to get in front of the net, and she can get into spaces.  She utilizes her quickness and her speed to get her scoring opportunities."

During Monday's practice, Johnson had his players drilling on skating and passing. He also incorporated some shooting exercises designed to create rebounds. "Scoring opportunities are so crucial on the women's side,'' he said. "Especially if you have more threats than the other team can cover."

He knows what he's talking about.

Johnson scored 125 goals during his three seasons at Wisconsin.

Not to mention the clutch goals he scored during the Lake Placid Olympics.
"I could get some pucks in the net every once in awhile," he deadpanned.

Secretariat had a nice gait, too.
ON WISCONSIN