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Every team depends on its goaltender to rise to the occasion.  The team that wins a national championship with shoddy play between the pipes will probably be the first.

But with 12 freshmen on its roster, Notre Dame will likely be depending even more on its goalie, sophomore Mike Johnson, to get the Fighting Irish into the championship game.

Johnson however, has had some ups and downs in his young career .

“Mike is a character kid,” ND coach Jeff Jackson said. “One of the things he’s been going through over the past two years is that he had never truly been a No. 1 goaltender.

“Last year, he was just thrown into it.  He had a great first half — top five numbers in the country in the first half as a freshman. Then, second half he kind of petered out, [though] some of that had to do with injuries we had on the blue line.

“This year he took a positive step.  He was in much better shape, he’d worked hard in the offseason, and [he had] another year under his belt. He had some stellar games this year.”

In the Northeast Regional, Johnson earned most outstanding player honors while backstopping Notre Dame to the Frozen Four.

“I’ve always felt that he can be an elite college goaltender,” Jackson said.  “It’s just a matter of him learning consistency, which is true of any goalie.

“The inconsistent ones, nobody knows their name. It’s the guys that win every night, everyone knows their name.

“The two previous guys that I had, David Brown and Jordan Pearce, didn’t really turn the corner until they were juniors.”

Mindful that Johnson will still be a sophomore tomorrow, Jackson added, ”Hopefully, he’ll be a junior.”