If losing to rival Minnesota on Sunday wasn’t bad, there’s even some more bad news for North Dakota goaltender Aaron Dell.
He might not be starting by Christmas, according to Fargo Force coach John Marks. Marks said after his team’s 4-2 win on Saturday he believes Force goaltender Zane Gothberg (North Dakota) has a legit shot of taking over as the No. 1 next season.
“I predict before Christmas Zane is the starting goalie at UND,” Marks said. “Dell better watch himself. But I also know he could leave too. (North Dakota head coach) Dave Hakstol and (assistant) Carey Eades and the Sioux have a good goalie coming in and he’s going to be one of the better ones they’ve had come in the last few years.”
Marks’ statement came after Gothberg picked up his third consecutive win helping the Force move into third place in the Western Conference. Gothberg is enjoying one of the best season for an individual in the USHL this year.
He is 24-14-4 with a 2.29 GAA, a .919 save percentage and he has a league-high six shutouts. Gothberg’s six shutouts are a franchise record for the most in one season which was three held by former Roseau star Mike Lee, who is now at St. Cloud State.
The Force are riding a three-game winning streak and Gothberg has been in net for all three wins. He recorded two shutouts in those wins adding to the talk that he could be a Goaltender of the Year candidate in the USHL this season.
“Zane Gothberg is a good goalie and I have been around a lot of good goalies,” Marks said. “I’ve had goalies play for me who have gone on to the National Hockey League and he has National Hockey League talent. Boston likes him. They drafted him but didn’t realize that he’s matured, he’s developed the work ethic. He has a the body for it and the mentality for it.”
Marks, who has coached juniors, college and professional teams, has coached former NHL goaltenders such as Dominik Hasek, who is widely considered to be one of the best to ever play in the NHL to Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who was a second-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers back in 2002.
Gothberg, 19, is in his second season with the Force having committed to North Dakota in 2009.
He came to the Force from Thief River Falls where he won the Frank Brimsek Award for Minnesota’s best senior goaltender in 2010. That summer he was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the sixth round.
Gothberg played as the team’s No. 2 last season behind Ryan Massa, who is now at Nebraska-Omaha. He went 14-8-0 with two shutouts last season but has solidified his role as the team’s No. 1 goaltender.
He will be at North Dakota next season where he is the only goaltender listed on the team’s commitment list, according to Chris Heisenberg. Assuming Dell returns, North Dakota would return two goaltenders and would have two incoming goaltenders in Gothberg and Alabama-Huntsville’s Clarke Saunders who will transfer to the program next season.