Spotlight: Twins lead Ice Hawks

BY IAN MARTIN | JANUARY 21, 2011 7:10 AM

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University of Iowa students Alex and Phil Johnson aren’t your average twins.

While they often finish each other’s sentences like many other genetic duplicates, Alex Johnson also often finishes Phil Johnson’s passes for goals.

The Johnsons are juniors near the top of almost every offensive category for the Ice Hawks, Iowa’s club hockey team. Through 15 games — the most recent stats available even though the team has played 18 — Alex Johnson is the team leader in goals with 10, and Phil Johnson is the coleader in assists with nine.

And unsurprisingly, the two possess an uncanny presence on the ice, where the two have roles to set up each other for points.

“I’m more of the assist guy, I feel like,” Phil Johnson said. “[Alex’s] goals come from me.”

Playing in high school at Joliet Catholic Academy, the two originally planned to play club hockey at the University of Illinois, and they considered DePaul — where their stepfather is the head coach — but eventually ended up at Iowa after deciding they wanted a more complete college experience.
Hawkeye hockey fans are grateful for that choice.

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The two play and have always played on the same line as left and right wingers, Alex Johnson on the left and Phil Johnson on the right. It has been this way for 16 of the 17 years they have played hockey — one season when they were 10, Alex moved to defense for a year.

While so much about the two appears similar, there is one major difference. Alex Johnson is a right-hander and Phil Johnson a southpaw, at least in hockey.

This difference has actually been to the benefit of the 5-8 brothers, allowing them to play together at all times. And with time comes skill.

“Seventeen years takes its toll,” Alex said. “It definitely does make a difference playing with each other for a long time.”

The two then recounted a story from a recent game as an example of the type of play leading to a goal that only they are able to make.

“I got the puck … and I knew he’d be cutting up the middle,” Phil Johnson said. “And sure as hell, he’s tearing up the middle of the ice, and I just got [the puck] out there without even looking.”

This instinct developed by the Plainfield, Ill., residents hasn’t gone unnoticed by others. In fact, it may be the most memorable thing to anyone who has seen them play hockey.

“It seems like they always know where each other is on the ice,” said interim hockey head coach Matt Johnson, who is unrelated. “[They make] a lot of passes where you don’t think they see a lane, but they know where the other one is.”

The only time the two have ever played on opposite sides of a field was when they were 4 on opposing youth soccer teams. Maybe this is why the two have to compete with each other while on the same team — it’s the only method of separation.

But of course, the always-together pair would never let any rivalry between them jeopardize their team.

“Through our entire life, he’ll score and I’ll say, ‘Well, I want to go out and score now,’ ” Alex Johnson said. “But winning is a big thing, too.”

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