If the franchise records were not enough for Zane Gothberg (North Dakota), he received a little something extra on Tuesday.
Gothberg was named the USHL’s co-Goaltender of the Year with Green Bay’s Ryan McKay (Miami (Ohio)), becoming the second player in Fargo Force history to win the award. Former Force star Mike Lee, who recently signed a pro contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, was the first back in the 2008-09 season.
Gothberg, a Boston Bruins draft pick, enjoyed what might have been the best individual season in the Force’s four-year history. Gothberg went 26-16-4 with a 2.22 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and seven shutouts.
Gothberg was second in wins, second in GAA, first in save percentage and first in shutouts.
Add in the fact he set seven franchise records: most wins in a season, most wins in a career, lowest GAA in a season, lowest GAA in a career, most shutouts in a season, most shutouts in a career and highest save percentage in a season.
Winning the goaltender award caps what was a transitional year for Gothberg in many ways.
Gothberg came to the Force last season from Thief River Falls (MN-HS), where he won Frank Brimsek Award for Minnesota’s best senior goaltender in addition to being drafted by the Force.
His first season had mixed results. As a backup, he won 14 games and actually set the franchise records for lowest GAA in a season and a career with a 2.23 GAA.
Despite the numbers, Gothberg was still susceptible to giving up soft goals and going through the complications that come with being a first-year player in the USHL.
Gothberg, while developing as a rookie, was also going through personal strife as his grandmother was suffering through illnesses, which later claimed her life over the summer.
Losing his grandmother, one of his biggest supporters, made Gothberg take a different approach to his life and his future as a hockey player. He abandoned old practices, such as playing video games, to do yoga in the hopes of getting flexible.
The tragedy also turned Gothberg into a leader on a team with several faces new to the USHL. Gothberg, who has been called the team’s “backbone” on several occasions, never showed visible frustration even when the Force lost 13 of its first 15 games to start the season.
When things began to turn around for the Force, Gothberg was at the center of it just like when he helped the team win nine games in a row. The winning streak was the longest in the USHL this season.
Gothberg helped the Force climb back into the Western Conference picture and finish fourth in the regular season. He helped the Force get back to the playoffs for a fourth straight season as they reached the second round.
His playoff performance was one of the better, having gone 3-3 with a 1.78 GAA and a .942 save percentage.
With his Force career over, he will enter North Dakota this fall, where he comes in as one of the jewels of a recruiting class that has been depleted by players opting for Major Junior.