Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bryces Now On Both Sides of University Avenue

Buried in a St. Cloud Times article about one of St. Cloud State's new recruits is news of yet another addition to Penn State hockey. 
Forward Bryce Johnson began last season as a forward for the Huskies before leaving the team after fall semester to join Omaha of the USHL. Johnson, who turns 21 in August, plans on playing for the club team at Penn State this fall. Penn State will move to the Division I ranks in 2012-13.
Johnson joins former Alaska-Anchorage Seawolf Justin Kirchhevel to become the second known former WCHA player joining Penn State this year.

Bryce Johnson

Omaha Lancers (USHL)
5'9", 165 pounds
Grimes, IA
DOB 8/31/1990

USHL player page

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM

2008-09  Dallas Stars (MM) U18  Mdgt   46   15   18   33   48
2009-10  Topeka Roadrunners     NAHL   58   19   35   54   52

2010-11  St. Cloud State Univ.  WCHA    3    0    0    0    2
2010-11  Omaha Lancers          USHL   37    8   16   24   18

Johnson spent two seasons with the Dallas Stars midget major U18 program, with both seasons ending at the USA Hockey national championships. A fifth-place finish in 2008 was followed with an OT heartbreaker against legendary Detroit Little Caesars in 2009's championship game, an outcome that undoubtedly pleased Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch. For his part, Johnson was fantastic during the tournament, putting up seven points in his team's six games. 

Despite his success, he went undrafted by the junior leagues, but showed up to Topeka Roadrunners tryout camp and impressed coach/GM Scott Langer.
"Bryce was undrafted and untendered but certainly on our radar. He came ready to work. He was very determined, and he clearly proved he belonged."
Langer certainly didn't regret including Johnson on his final roster.
The 5'9", 160 lb. center found himself on both the power play and penalty kill units. He provided offense for both units, with 5 goals and 14 assists on the NAHL's number one power play, and also popped in 2 goals with 4 assists on the penalty kill, leading the team in short-handed points. Overall, Johnson tallied 19 goals and 35 assists for 54 points, third highest on the team. His 35 assists ranked second on the team.
However, much like at nationals the previous year, the Iowa native saved his best for the biggest games. His 13 points, eight assists, +10 and four power play points were all best on the Roadrunners during their run to the Robertson Cup second round in 2010. Topeka was eliminated by St. Louis - the three-time defending champs - but Johnson scored the game-winner in both of his team's victories in the series and had seven points in the five games. In short, not really his fault.

Johnson committed to St. Cloud State for last season, and it's here that his career hits something of a speed bump, as he got in just three of the Huskies' 20 fall semester games, none of the last ten. His only recorded statistic was a second-period slashing penalty in a 1-1 tie with Miami on October 16th (for what it's worth, he took a RedHawk off with him). He left the program for the USHL's Omaha Lancers right around New Year's - about the same time the Huskies lost three other players under more alcohol-induced circumstances (the timing is purely coincidental, as Johnson departed just prior to that incident).

With the Lancers, Johnson added a pretty large spark to a team locked in the tightly-packed Western Conference standings, finishing sixth on the team in scoring despite only playing in 37 of 60 regular-season games. Omaha went 12-3-2 down the stretch (with Johnson contributing 12 points during that run, including three during a pivotal come-from-behind win over Tommy Olczyk's Sioux City squad) to clinch second place - although they were rudely escorted out of the playoffs via a second-round sweep at the hands of the Sioux Falls Stampede.

We'll close, as I like to do when possible, with video evidence of Johnson's Omaha exploits. First, with a goal remarkably similar to one I saw Joe Thornton score live when I decided he was one of my favorite players, regardless of team (1:22 in).

He deals in apples as well, here feeding Princeton commit Jonathan Liau (right at the beginning).

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