North Xtra: Senior filling net for North Allegheny
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From South Korea to the second-leading goal scorer on top-ranked North Allegheny, it has been quite a journey for senior forward Charlie Johnson.
Johnson's father, Clark, travels a lot for business, so Charlie has lived in three countries, including the United States, and has spent close to half his life overseas.
"It's had a huge impact on me," Johnson said. "I've experienced a bunch of different walks of life. I can't thank my parents enough. I think it's great for people to travel and I've been really lucky and blessed."
Johnson was born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to Chicago when he was 2 years old. After a year in the Windy City, Johnson and his family went back to Asia, this time to Shanghai, China.
"I can speak a little bit of Mandarin," Johnson said.
While in China, Johnson would occasionally travel back to Pittsburgh, where most of his extended family lived. On one such trip, he went to watch his cousin, Shady Side Academy's Jake Rogal, play in a hockey game for his amateur team.
That's when Johnson fell in love with the sport.
So after his family moved to Cincinnati when he was 8, he started playing for the local youth hockey organization.
He lived in Cincinnati until 2010, when he moved back to Pittsburgh to attend North Allegheny High School for his sophomore year.
"I fit right in with the hockey kids," Johnson said. "They were all really nice. Plus [North Allegheny] is huge, so it's easy to fit in. I love it.
But things didn't come as easily on the ice for Johnson. A forward, he had trouble finding the back of the net, scoring a total of 11 goals his first two seasons for the Tigers.
Making things more difficult for Johnson was the fact that his father is often in India working for ARAMARK International.
"It's a unique situation," Johnson said. "We call and Skype a lot, and when he's here, we just try to spend as much time as we can together as a family. My dad is awesome and I miss him, but that's just how it is."
The breaking point on the ice last season came after Johnson took a few bad penalties at the Gilmour Academy Brother James Memorial Tournament in January. North Allegheny coach Jim Black sat down with Johnson afterward.
"He wasn't having any fun playing," Black said. "He was being really hard on himself. He took some time off -- about five days to a week -- and I think had a good talk with his dad, too. Ever since, he's been a different player.
"Now, he laughs off the stuff that was making him mad before and is playing like the kid I thought he could be when he came here as a sophomore."
Johnson is second on the Tigers (14-3-2) with 12 goals. He also has 13 assists and is tied with Joe Griffin (19 goals, six assists) for third on the team in scoring. Connor Cash leads the team with 27 points (6 goals, 21 assists) and he's followed by Cody Black (26 points, 9 and 17).
He is now considering playing hockey in college at the club level. A senior, Johnson said he hasn't made his decision on where to attend next season. But first, he wants to win Penguins Cup and state championships.
"We just need to keep doing the things that we've done all season," Johnson said.
It would add another chapter to Johnson's journey that started more than 6,000 miles away.
First Published February 21, 2013 12:00 am