With a massive bandage on his chin and blood soaked into the front of his white jersey, senior captain Johnny Conlin was in no hurry to remove the Mounds View sweater late Thursday night at TCO Sports Garden in Vadnais Heights.
Scoring four goals and leading your team to a heated and thorough victory against an arch rival in a packed and charged house can do that.
A gifted playmaker with a wicked shot, quick hands, high motor and a natural-born scoring knack, the Mr. Hockey candidate moved through a maze of friends, recruiters and media before finally getting a minute to himself.
That’s what kind of winter seems to be shaping up for Conlin.
“He carries the load and he does a lot of heavy lifting,” Mounds View co-coach Darrell Schulte says of Conlin. “We want to get him out in spots and get him as much ice as possible. We need to leverage his talent as much as we can.”
Conlin is off to an impressive start, and his four-goal performance against Irondale pushes his season total to 10 goals through the first five games.
His first three goals Thursday came unassisted and in thrilling fashion on electric scoring chances created from, seemingly, nothing. Centering two lines and skating every other shift, Conlin is running the show whenever he’s on the ice.
“I just want to put my head down and go to work,” Conlin says. “Honestly, I need to credit my teammates because everyone is buzzing. My teammates are getting me the puck.”
Conlin is in his fourth year on the varsity roster and third year as a captain. He entered the season with 47 career goals and 112 points. Last year, he scored 25 goals and 61 points as a junior.
Schulte, who has coached Conlin since Squirts as he played alongside Schulte’s son Sam, a junior defenseman and captain, says players like Conlin don’t come along very often, and the Mustangs recognize his gifts.
“I love his game, I love his compete and his work ethic,” Coach Schulte said. “He’s so smart and he sees the ice so well that he makes everyone else better. He elevates his game, and that makes our team go. The pucks run through him.”
Conlin is fed the puck by a defensive corps that is another Mound View strength. The Mustangs roster is young and inexperienced, but the top defensive pairings, including captains Sam Schulte and Zach Baird, have shown a growing efficiency in getting the puck firmly into the hands of their engine.
“You can trust that he’s always going to make the right play,” Sam Schulte says of Conlin. “He’s got great hands and an elite shot, but his vision and lateral movement are so great that he’s going to find the open guy if it’s the better option. He’s a total playmaker.”
“As long as I’ve known him, he’s always had that spark in him.”
Johnny Conlin scored four goals to help lead Mounds View to a 6-1 victory over Irondale on Thursday night before a full house at TCO Sports Garden in Vadnais Heights.
Conlin, who has 10 goals this season, scored midway through the opening period to give the Mustangs the lead for good, then added another 21 seconds into the second period as Mounds View tore the game open against their ‘frenemies’ from across the school district.
Mounds View and Irondale also share a youth program, and virtually all of them grew up playing together, but things got hot and competitive as the game moved along and the crowd got involved.
Defenseman Sam Schulte added a goal and an assist for Mounds View (2-3-0), while goaltender Owen Lee stopped 17 of 18 shots for the win.
Irondale (3-2-0) got its goal from Gavin Fagerlee, who scored late in the third to trim the deficit to 3-1, though Mounds View would answer twice over the next three minutes to keep momentum on its side.