Jeff Kolpack, Published March 07 2013
NDSU looks to continue solid play, hoist banner for women’s club hockey squad
Hockey has been good to the Johnson family from West Fargo, whether it be high school state titles coached by Pat Johnson, the father, or won on the ice by his daughter, Kacie Johnson.
It looked to be over a year ago when Kacie decided softball was going to be the sport for her in college. That lasted one semester.
And thanks to the North Dakota State women’s club hockey team, hockey has returned to the family success ladder. She’s part of the Bison team that is in Ashburn, Va., for the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II national tournament.
A case can be made for NDSU being the top seed. At 14-4-1, it won more games than anybody at its level in the country. During the last practice at the John E. Carlson Coliseum, the team made note of the banners won by the Bison men’s club team in the 1980s and 1990s.
“We just said we want to hang one for the women’s team,” Kacie Johnson said.
She strongly considered playing hockey at Wisconsin-River Falls right out of high school, but the school did not have her nursing major. Wisconsin-Eau Claire also recruited her.
She went the junior college route to the North Dakota State College of Science, but transferred to NDSU last winter. Instead of coaching, Pat had a different in-town vantage point – the stands.
“I don’t say anything unless they ask me,” he said. “I’m just there to support and cheer her on. Before, when you’re coaching, you’re giving advice all the time. Now it’s nice just watch and enjoy it.”
Agreed, said Kacie, who said her father was happy to see her stay in the game.
Kacie is second in the country in scoring with 29 goals and 18 assists in 15 games. Kaylee Lothspeich, another former West Fargo player, is third with 14 goals and 21 assists. Breanna Taralson, from Fargo South, has five goals and eight assists.
It’s just like old times for Kacie Johnson and Lothspeich, who have played on the same line since eighth grade.
“This is just a great way to keep playing hockey until you have to stop,” Kacie said. “It’s more relaxed but it’s still competitive. And it’s a blast to travel everywhere.”
NDSU played California (Pa.) on Thursday, and plays West Chester (Pa.) and Penn State today. The tournament is bracketed with four teams from the west versus four from the east in pool play with the weekend reserved for the title march.
It’s NDSU’s second trip to the national tourney.
“It’s nice to see her involved again,” Pat said. “You might as well play as long as you can because it does come to an end.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found