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Warriors Athlete of Week: Johnson a perfect fit for Warrior boys’ hockey

Brady Johnson's scoring has ignited the Brainerd Warriors boys hockey team

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Brainerd junior center Brady Johnson skates the puck up ice against Elk River/Zimmerman Dec. 29, 2022, at Essentia Health Sports Center.
Kelly Humphrey
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BRAINERD -- It didn’t take long for Brady Johnson to find his role.

The junior transferred into the Brainerd School District this year from St. Michael-Albertville. Johnson’s dad, Jerr Johnson, is a former Brainerd graduate and was the Knights’ head boys’ hockey coach before moving back this year.

Despite coming to a new team so late in his high school career, the younger Johnson has been an offensive spark for a Warriors team that is riding a four-game winning streak.

“Brady transferring in from STMA, we weren’t sure what we were going to get because he hadn’t been around,” Warrior head coach Howie Borden said. “Right away he just had a really great attitude and you could tell he cared. He’s one of those kids who is very infectious with his smile and he’s very infectious with his teammates. Everybody wants to be around him. He brings a level of energy, care and compassion since Day One and we felt that. He gelled with the guys right away. It’s like he’s been in Brainerd his whole career.”

After starting this season with three straight losses, the Warriors have rattled four straight wins to improve to 4-3. The streak started with a 4-1 victory over Northern Lakes Dec. 8. Johnson tallied a goal and two assists in the win.

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After knocking off their new rival, the Warriors defeated an old rival Dec. 20, in Little Falls 3-2. Johnson tallied an assist in that win.

“We’re excited, especially after the team they had last year,” Johnson said. “They didn’t have a great start to their season and right now we have four wins in a row so we’re kind of buzzing.

“It’s actually been an easy transition for me. There are a lot of great kids on this team. The culture in the locker room is just great. The environment around the team is good. Then after our last four games now we’re above .500 so the team is pretty good right now.”

In a surprise victory over Elk River/Zimmerman, Johnson posted two goals to lead Brainerd to a 3-2 win.

You get to go back into the locker room and listen to happy music.
Brady Johnson

The Warriors finally got above .500 with a 5-3 Central Lakes Conference win over Sartell. Johnson registered a goal and an assist.

“There’s a couple of things with Brady and scoring,” Borden said. “He has a knack for putting the puck on his stick. He swarms pucks. He’s a hound and he goes into any kind of battle situation, whether it’s 1-on-1, 1-on-2 or 1-on-3 and finds a way to go hard for the puck and have that possession. That sets him up to get shots and then score.

“We tell our guys to swarm pucks and be hounds. We need to own that puck and he’s all over every puck and in every battle. When he gets off that ice, he comes back to the bench and you can tell he’s breathing hard for a bit because he goes out and gives 100%. Then when it’s his turn to go back out, it’s boom. He goes back out with high energy again. He just gives everything he has on every shift. He has one gear and that’s high-temp all of the time.”

Johnson has scored a point in each of Brainerd’s first seven games and is sitting at 14 points with eight goals and six assists.

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“He’s just been great,” Borden said. “When you have one guy who is working hard and has success well then everyone wants that success. When you’re on that line with Brady, you know you have to keep up with his pace. You know if you don’t keep up with him someone else is going to. He makes everyone around him better and he makes everyone around him want to keep up with him and play like him.”

The center is teamed with John Finnegan and Kade Stengrim. Those three lead Brainerd with a combined 36 points.

“At first we started out with two equal lines and then we tried this line at the end of the Roseau game and it was kind of almost instant how we got along,” Johnson said. “We scored on our second shift together and we knew this was going to be a special line.

“I feel like the different roles that we play complement each other. We play different spots on the ice, but it’s come together to help us score goals.”

As a sophomore for STMA, Johnson finished with five goals and eight assists. He registered two assists in the Knights’ 11-0 win over Brainerd last year.

This year, it’s all Brainerd. And even though he’s a first-year Warrior and just a junior, Borden said Johnson has been a leader just like many of the other players.

“The really nice thing about our team as a whole is that even though you’re not wearing a letter, we have a lot of leaders,” He said. “Leadership comes from just caring about the team and doing the right things even when nobody is looking. Brady is one of those kids. We have a lot of kids who like to lead by example. We have just a lot of players who are great character kids.”

Said Johnson about his hockey mindset: “I don’t like to lose very much so when we’re out there I just like to encourage the boys and get them going. The feeling of losing is a lot worse than the feeling of winning is good. When you’re playing the game you just need to give it everything you’ve got. That usually pays off at the end of the game. You get to go back into the locker room and listen to happy music.”

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JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Brady Johnson

Brady Johnson
Brady Johnson
Kelly Humphrey

Sport: Boys’ hockey

Position: Center

Year: Junior

Age: 17

Height: 5-foot-9

Career highlight: Bearing Buffalo last year in Buffalo during the Section 8-2A playoffs

Other sports: Tennis

Favorite class: Physical education

Favorite food: Cheeseburgers

Favorite movie: “The Short Game”

Favorite musician: Morgan Wallen

Favorite restaurant: The Melting Pot

Future plans: Play Division I hockey

Favorite athlete: Matt Boldy

Parents: Megan and Jerr Johnson

Other notable performances

Annelise Baird, girls’ Nordic skiing, won the Warrior Holiday Invite, in 39:58.94.

Mason Kuepers, boys’ swimming and diving, won two individual events and was on two first-pace relays during Warrior Holiday Invite.

Brody Lund, boys hockey, made 40 saves in a 3-2 win over Elk River and 24 in a 5-3 win over Sartell.

Gavin Hoelzel, boys’ Alpine skiing, skied to a first-place finish in the Warrior Christmas Break Invite.

Nick Evanson, boys’ basketball, finished with 25 points against Centennial.

Johnny Pecarich, boys’ basketball, scored 22 points against Centennial.

Kade Stengrim, boys’ hockey, scored two goals and added an assist against Sartell.

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