Late in the regular season, Fargo Force head coach John Marks said he thought Zane Gothberg was the best goaltender in the league. He even went so far as to say he thought Gothberg would be starting at North Dakota by Christmas of 2012.
The United States Hockey League saw enough of what Marks was describing on that night and that culminated in the Thief River Falls, Minnesota native being named Co-USHL Goaltender of the Year today, sharing the honors with Green Bay’s Ryan McKay.
Gothberg is the second Force player to win the Goaltender of the Year Award in the franchise’s four seasons. The first was Roseau, Minnesota boy Mike Lee, who went on to star at St. Cloud State before signing a professional contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Gothberg split time with Ryan Massa (Nebraska-Omaha) in his rookie season, and many pointed out that it was the first time in his life that he was really challenged for a position. The numbers were certainly acceptable in year one, but there were a few moments that were certainly learning opportunities.
As the top option between the pipes, 19-year-old Gothberg flourished in 2011-12 and showed the USHL why he is both a college commit and an NHL draft pick of the Boston Bruins.
The numbers speak for themselves. Gothberg finished the regular season 26-16-4 with a robust .921 save percentage, which led the USHL. The 2.22 goals against average is pretty impressive in its own right. He shut opponents down and he shut them out. In fact, he recorded a franchise best seven shutouts on the season.
Gothberg finished first in the league in save percentage and shutouts, while finishing second in wins and goals against average.
Gothberg was the fabric of the Fargo Force all season long. That’s really saying something for a team that had dynamic offensive weapons in Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota) and Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth), as well as NHL prospect and blue liner Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha).
Marks raved about Gothberg on several occasions throughout the season, pointing out that his strength, speed and conditioning were top-notch and vastly improved from his rookie campaign. Gothberg regularly made things look simple and routine due to great positioning and a knack for reading plays coming at him.
His production and value to the team is impossible to properly admire, even when looking at the seven franchise records that he has set. Those records include highest save percentage in a season and lowest goals against average in a season, as well as other career-long records.
It wouldn’t be fair to look back on Gothberg’s season and career without noting the 2012 Clark Cup Playoffs.
Fargo was knocked out of the playoffs by Lincoln in round two, despite Gothberg’s outstanding numbers. He finished just 3-3, but posted a .942 save percentage and a 1.78 goals against average. He does have something of a clutch gene and that shined through down the stretch and certainly into the playoffs.
All signs point to Gothberg heading to North Dakota to start his college career in Grand Forks. He will finish his USHL career with a record of 40-24-4, with nine shutouts. He posted a 2.22 overall goals against average and a .917 save percentage.
Gothberg’s name can now be added to a growing list of successful goalies to come through the Fargo Force program. First it was Lee, then Massa, then Gothberg, who’s numbers would suggest will be hard to replace for the 2012-13 Fargo Force.
You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.