Johnson bringing consistency to Grizzlies lineup
Mahtomedi native Adam Johnson has been the most consistent point producer in the Rochester Grizzlies lineup this season. The skilled forward has tendered with Minot in the NAHL.
Adam Johnson has been a consistent force on a Rochester Grizzlies team that has lacked consistency at times this season.
The only problem — a good problem, at that — has been that Johnson hasn’t consistently been in the Grizzlies lineup. The highly skilled scorer and point producer from Mahtomedi has spent chunks of his rookie season of junior hockey playing with teams in the Tier II North American Hockey League, one step up the junior hockey ladder from the Tier III North American 3 Hockey League that the Grizzlies call home.
After nearly a month-long stint with the NAHL’s Minot Minotauros, Johnson was back in black and gold last weekend, helping the Grizzlies earn a series split against NA3HL Central Division rival Oregon (Wis.) at the Rochester Recreation Center.
Johnson was on top of his game, too, recording a goal and an assist in a 3-2 loss on Friday, then getting three assists in a 6-2 win on Saturday that snapped a three-game losing streak for the first-place Grizzlies (25-6-2).
Those were Johnson’s first games back with Rochester since Dec. 22, when the Grizzlies dropped a 3-2 decision to league power Granite City at the NA3HL Showcase in Blaine. His five-point weekend earned him Central Division Star of the Week honors.
“Adam got back to playing the way he was when he left,” Grizzlies coach Chris Ratzloff said. “He was OK against Granite – the only game he’s played with us over the last month. I thought he could’ve done more in that game, but he was really good last weekend, both nights.”
Johnson has spent time this season with two NAHL teams, the Minotauros and the Minnesota Magicians, who play their home games in Richfield.
With the Grizzlies this year, the 6-foot, 170-pound Johnson has played in 19 games, with 8 goals and 14 assists. He has recorded at least one point in 14 of those 19 games. His 22 total points are good for sixth-most on the team, though he has played in just 19 of Rochester’s 33 games.
He signed a tender agreement last week to play for Minot in the 2022-23 season.
“Now that that’s off his back,” Ratzloff said, “he’s not thinking about it anymore. He just played and played really last weekend. Hopefully he can finish the season out like that.”
Battling through inconsistencies
The Grizzlies are under .500 in their past 10 games, going 4-5-1 in that stretch, a rare occurrence during their dominant run over the past three seasons.
Some of that may be due to fluctuations in the lineup, with nine players having been called up by NAHL teams at various times this season, including No. 1 goalie Zach Wiese spending the past two weeks with the Austin Bruins.
The Grizzlies won’t use that as an excuse, though.
“I think that’s overblown,” Ratzloff said. “... It’s just the overall consistency in having the right mindset and being prepared to play.”
Rochester is just 1-3-0 since returning from a break over the holidays. But that one win came in its most recent game, the 6-2 win against Oregon last Saturday. The Grizzlies hope to carry that momentum into a two-game home series against the St. Louis Jr. Blues this Friday and Saturday (7:05 p.m. both nights) at the Rochester Recreation Center.
Ratzloff said the Grizzlies need to find consistency on and off the ice, especially when it comes to the little things.
“It’s focusing on the details,” he said. “It’s making sure the locker room is clean every day, making sure there isn’t tape laying on the bench, it’s … if you’re taking care of that kind of stuff, then you’re taking care of the little things on the ice, too — getting pucks over the blue line, catching passes, making passes on the tape, not just throwing the puck around.
“It’s the little details on and off the ice. That’s where your focus is. If you’re focused, then you’re doing those little things. If you’re not focused, those little details slip.”