Minnesota women’s hockey volunteer coach Justin Johnson knows a thing or two about goaltending for the Maroon and Gold.
Although this is his first season with the women’s hockey team, representing the Gophers is nothing new to Justin.
He played for the men’s hockey team from 2002-2005 as a goalie and helped Minnesota win two national championships in 2002 and 2003.
After graduating in 2005 with a psychology degree, Johnson went to work for another former Gophers goaltender, Robb Stauber.
Stauber runs Goalcrease, a program designed to help improve goaltending for players at all levels. Current Minnesota goalies, senior Kellen Briggs and sophomore Jeff Frazee, have both participated in the program.
The first-year coach also works with The Mental Edge, a program designed to work with the psychological aspects of sports.
“I was doing coaching and instruction in college and even in high school when I would work at camps,” Johnson said. “I love to see people get better at a game and a position that I enjoy.”
Johnson splits what little free time he has between coaching jobs with the Gophers and the St. Cloud State men’s hockey team, also as a volunteer goalie coach, under former Minnesota men’s hockey assistant coach Bob Motsko.
In addition to coaching, Johnson recently wrote a book, “Game Day.” The customizable goaltending manual deals with mental and physical preparation needed in order for peak performance on game day.
“The book kind of stems from the business side of my work with goalies,” Johnson said. “It was a way for me to take the information that I learned from other goalies I have played with and what research has found on the psychological side and put it into usable information for young goaltenders.”
Minnesota sophomore goalie Brittony Chartier said although she hasn’t used Johnson’s book, his expertise has helped her improve on the little things like cleaning up rebounds and other fundamentals.
Johnson is only available to the Gophers a few days a week, so the team has to make the most of those practices.
On a normal schedule, Tuesday is film day for the goaltending crew.
“Actually, in a sense, it is backwards,” Chartier said. “For instance, after the Ohio State series, we tried to address issues from that series and clear them up before the next one.”
Wednesday finds the goalie corps on the ice working specifically on what was learned in film the day before.
“We have 45 minutes of intense workout just with the goaltenders,” Johnson said. “We work on technique and critique.”
Lately, the effort has paid off for Chartier. The sophomore recorded her first shutout of the season last weekend in a 1-0 win over Minnesota-Duluth.
“I’m very lucky to be working with Justin,” Chartier said. “I’m very confident in the things that he has been helping me with.”
Before Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson asked Johnson to coach the women’s team, she wanted to check him out with a reliable source – his cousin, Tiffany Johnson.
“Before I talked to Justin, I checked with Tiff knowing that they were related,” Halldorson said. “I wanted to make sure it was OK with her and she was excited to hear that he was considering taking the position.”
Tiffany Johnson is also a new addition this season – as a freshman forward on the team.
Even though Tiffany Johnson isn’t a goalie, she jokingly said her cousin still finds the time to help her with her game.
“Every now and then he will shoot a couple pucks at me or tell me to work on my passing,”
Justin Johnson’s attitude was one of the reason’s that Halldorson asked him to join the staff.
After checking around the University, Halldorson found that people had a lot of positive things to say about Justin Johnson.
“Not only was he a great goalie, but he was a great person too,” she said. “He fits into our program very well, not only with his knowledge and expertise, but also with his personality.”