Johnson goes the distance for his sport
WOODLAND PARK - Five to six days a week, Cody Johnson gets in his car and drives 22 miles to World Arena for hockey practice or a game.
But the Woodland Park senior does not represent his own school in the sport. He plays for the Coronado Cougars because Woodland Park does not field a team.
“It’s a bummer we couldn’t get a high school team going up here,” Johnson said. “But I play hockey for Coronado and that’s my team.”
Johnson is in his third season with Coronado and is among the top scorers in the Colorado Springs area. His 11 points (eight goals and three assists) are tops on the team.
“Cody’s a very good shooter and a very good stick handler,” said first-year Cougars coach Greg Lehmann. “He’s not a super vocal guy, but he brings it every game.”
Johnson is a co-captain along with fellow seniors Max Lovato and Tucker Bloom. Johnson also centers the first line with forwards Dominic Steel and Garrett Oarth.
“We’ve been skating together for a long time,” said Steel, who leads the team in assists with eight. “When I have the puck I’m always looking for Cody or Garrett.
“Cody has really god fundamentals and he’s really smart when he’s on the ice. He makes the right play 99 percent of the time.”
Interestingly, nearly one-third of Coronado’s team attends schools other than Coronado. Steel and Oarth are students at Falcon (25 miles from World Arena). Johnson, Steel and Oarth grew up playing on the same club teams in Colorado Springs, so they decided to stay together in high school.
“We always seem to know where each other are,” said Oarth, who has four goals and four assists. “Cody stepped up this year because he’s a leader of the team. He’s taken the reigns.”
Johnson is a three-year starter (he played club as a freshman), but has really come into his own this season. He’s scored two goals in a game three times and has been held scoreless just twice.
The Cougars, however, are 1-6 (0-3 in the Peak Conference), with their lone victory coming in the season opener against Liberty, 7-3.
“Last year (2011-12) we thought we were going to be better than we were,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of five-goal losses.
“But this year most of our games have been close. We could have a better record, but we just haven’t played a full three periods of hockey. If we do that I think we can pull out a few wins.”
Johnson and the Cougars played a full three periods of hockey on Jan. 5, battling back from a 5-1 deficit against Palmer to tie the game at 5-5 and force overtime. But the Terrors scored in the first overtime stanza. Johnson finished with a goal and assist.
“We’re starting to get good chemistry,” Johnson said. “We’re hitting it on a dime this year.”
Coronado’s next game is Saturday against Doherty at World Arena. On Jan. 23, the Cougars host Air Academy at Sertich Ice Arena with proceeds from the game going to help the Colorado Springs firefighters who fought the Waldo Canyon blaze last summer.
Johnson is not the only Woodland Park student playing hockey. Sophomore defenseman Jake Neil plays for Coronado and sees action in every game. Senior Tyler Elwell is a defenseman for Palmer. Sophomore Jeremy Hamerquist is a goalkeeper for Cheyenne Mountain.
“We all hang out with each other and we’re all best friends in school,” Johnson said. “We just play on different teams.”