MINNEAPOLIS -- Senior defenseman Steve Johnson is in his fourth year of patrolling the Gopher Hockey blue line with 89 games and 28 points (four goals, 24 assists) to his credit.
GopherSports.com caught up with the Excelsior, Minn., native to talk about his time with the Maroon & Gold.
What was it about the University of Minnesota that made you want to be a Gopher?
I grew up watching the Gophers. My dad would take me to games all the time, and I fell in love with the program -- the pride, the passion, the tradition, the excellence that this program has. Minnesota has always developed great players, and we have a reputation as one of the elite programs in college hockey. It was an obvious choice for me to come here...especially as a hometown kid.
As a defenseman, how much of a factor was it for you to come and learn from Mike Guentzel - a guy that has put so many blue liners in the NHL over his career?
In my opinion, Mike Guentzel is one of the best, if not the best, defensive coaches in college hockey and hockey in general. You look at his track record and all of the guys he has worked with that have gone on to play professional hockey, and you have to respect the job he has done here. I want to be on that list one day, and there's no question he's helping me get there.
You have a nice opportunity to step into a new role this year as a senior defenseman - getting some more minutes, some more time on the power play and leading the team as a veteran. Are you excited for that opportunity?
Being a senior, there are higher expectations for you and you also have higher expectations of yourself. I want to be a leader for our defensive group and for our team. You have to come ready to play every single day and push yourself and others in the right direction. I'm excited for sure.
You're certainly a talented hockey player, but goal scoring isn't your primary concern with the Gophers. That being said, is there any chance you'll forget scoring the game-winning goal at North Dakota, snapping a 48-game goal drought?
It's something that I'll never forget. I'll tell you that much. I couldn't go to bed that night - I was replaying that in my head all night. I haven't scored that many goals in my college career, so I'll definitely remember that one. To top it off, it came in one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of and probably ever will be.
During the summer, you went on vacation to Hawaii, and you had the chance to go swimming with sharks. Why would you do that?
That was really cool. Another thing I'll never forget. We went out in the ocean about four miles, and they dropped a cage in the water. We hopped in and before you know it, there are sharks all around you. For the first 30 minutes, it's a little scary and a little eerie in a way - you're in this big open ocean with these massive sharks. Then you start to calm down and realize how cool it was. I'd definitely do it again.
What. A. Morning. Shark Dive in Hawaii 🤙 pic.twitter.com/Mlhn1gj1Oq
You mentioned that Jordan Leopold is your favorite Gopher of all time. Other than the national championship, the Hobey Baker Award and the lengthy NHL career, what puts him at the top of your list?
I grew up watching him, and now I have gotten to know him a little bit. I just admire his work ethic and the way he played the game. He was a great two-way defenseman that wasn't afraid to jump up in the play. He was talented on offense, but he also made sure to take care of his own end. And I always liked his demeanor - his energy, his attitude - you could see it. I still have a Jordan Leopold signed hat at my house. Growing up and watching him helped develop my passion to want to be a Gopher one day.
Last one for you...Entourage is your favorite TV show. Play casting director for us -- which of your teammates would you pick to play the main characters.
Vince - Tyler Sheehy
E - Jack Sadek
Turtle - Brock Kautz
Johnny Drama - Mike Szmatula
Ari Gold - Brent Gates Jr.
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