It is often said that success starts from the goal and moves out and while the Kindersley Klippers have one of the premiere netminders in Justen Close they also have a very capable back-up in Zach Johnson.
The 19-year-old from Regina has been exceptional when called upon as through the first half of the season he has posted an 8-2-0-1 record in his 11 appearances. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds he provides little room for opposing teams to get a puck behind him and that is evidenced by the .917 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average he has produced so far this campaign.
Johnson got his first taste of Junior “A” hockey last year when he got into six games with the Klippers. His numbers were considerably lower last year – 3.02 GAA and .899 save percentage – but that experience gave him the confidence for this year when he became a regular member of the squad.
Johnson had spent the remainder of last year with the Regina Capitals of the Prairie Junior Hockey League and in 14 appearances with that club he posted a 2.36 GAA to go with a .896 save percentage.
Prior to making the jump to the junior level, Johnson spent one season with the Tisdale Trojans of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League and two years with the Regina Capitals of the South Saskatchewan Midget AA Hockey League. His rookie season with the Capitals as a 15-year-old was one to remember as he had a 1.89 GAA in 20 starts leading the team to a league championship.
With the Klippers in the thick of a heated battle for both a divisional and overall point’s title, strong goaltending down the stretch is going to be critical. One would expect Johnson will be called upon a bit more during the final weeks to give Close a bit of a break before the playoffs begin and if his early results are any indication the Klippers will have little to worry about when his number is called.