Wednesday, October 10, 2012

WCHA Instant Impact: Zane Gothberg (UND)

The 12th and final entry of the Instant Impact series features North Dakota freshman goaltender Zane Gothberg. Also, a big thank you to all the staff and coaches for their willingness to take the time to answer my questions and talk about the featured players.

Previous Entries:
Joey Benik, SCSU                                           Austin Farley, UMD
Blake Tatchell, UAA                                         Adam Wilcox, UM
Hunter Fejes, CC                                             Juhjar Khaira, MTU
Nic Kerdiles, UW                                             Brad Robbins, BSU 
Anthony Stolarz, UNO                                     Quentin Shore, DU
Teddy Blueger, MSU

Zane Gothberg, G, North Dakota
Vitals: 6' 2" - 198 lbs - 8/20/1992
Hometown: Thief River Falls, MN
Previous Team: Fargo Force (USHL)

North Dakota enters the 2012-13 season fully intent on bowing out of the WCHA with style. UND will move to the fledgling National Collegiate Hockey Conference next year, but in the meantime they will be looking to hoist two of college hockey's most revered trophies one final time. But as special as it may be to win the MacNaughton Cup and Broadmoor Trophy, that certainly is not the ultimate goal of this team. With a talented and experienced group of returnees supplemented by a good recruiting class, UND has the pieces in place to contend for the program's eighth national championship.

Offensively, North Dakota loses Brock Nelson, the league's leading goal scorer, and captain Mario Lamoureux, but all other forwards return. Seniors Danny Kristo and Corban Knight will lead the way upfront, and expect redshirt freshman Rocco Grimaldi to be an immediate offensive force. Ben Blood is the lone loss on the UND blueline, and the experienced defensive corps led by Andrew MacWilliam and Derek Forbort will be fortified by bluechip freshman Jordan Schmaltz.

North Dakota's biggest loss comes in goal, with All-WCHA goaltenders Brad Eidsness (graduated) and Aaron Dell (signed professionally) moving on from their UND careers. This loss of experience means that for the first time in five seasons, someone other than Dell or Eidsness will be tasked with manning the pipes as the number one goaltender. And while UND does gain the services of Clarke Saunders, a junior transfer from Alabama-Huntsville, they have a high-end recruit who will be expected to make a strong push towards the number one spot. That recruit is Zane Gothberg.

Gothberg comes to North Dakota on the heels of a fantastic high school and junior career. He was a three-year starter in goal for Thief River Falls (MN-HS), eventually culminating his high school career by winning the Frank Brimsek Award as the top senior goaltender in Minnesota after posting a 1.81 GAA and .925 save percentage in 2009-10. In 2010-11 he appeared in 23 games for the Fargo Force (USHL), recording a 2.23 GAA and .908 save percentage. Last season he won Fargo's number one goaltending spot and ran with it, earning USHL Goaltender of the Week honors on three occasions on his way to being named the All-USHL First Team goaltender. His 2.22 GAA and league-leading seven shutouts and .921% save percentage also helped earn him USHL Co-Goaltender of the Year honors.

According to Fargo Force associate head coach Byron Pool, Gothberg "is a big, strong athletic goaltender. He is tremendously conditioned and competes on every puck. He is a leader and gives the players in front of him a lot of confidence. He knows his position very well and has tremendous upside."

"Technically," Pool said, "Zane is a very sound goaltender. He knows his angles, is very square to the puck, and tracks the puck very well. Where Zane took a step for us last year was in his strength and conditioning. By being stronger he was able to use his athleticism to make those big cross-crease saves. Also, his recovery became a lot quicker."

When asked what qualities Gothberg possesses that will enable him to succeed at the NCAA level, Pool stated that "Zane is a great goaltender and he does not like to play second fiddle. He has a burning desire to play every minute of every game. He will push anyone who is ahead of him on the depth chart and fight tooth and nail to keep his starting position if and when he gets it. This competitiveness not only creates great competition between your goaltenders but it also makes your practices that much better as shooters are facing goaltenders who don't like to be scored on." Expect that competitiveness to be a driving force in Gothberg's push to become North Dakota's number one goaltender.

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