DULUTH, Minn. – Earlier this week, North Dakota sophomore goalie to a puck to the mask in practice that left him with a noticeable black eye.
His performance tonight was anything but a black eye.
The Thief River Falls, Minn., native turned aside all 33 shots he faced, blanking host Minnesota Duluth 3-0 for his first collegiate shutout, an effort that helped lift UND into a tie for first place in the NCHC.
UND, now 13-2-1 in its last 16 games, moved into a tie atop the standings with St. Cloud State after the Huskies fell at Miami. With the win, UND improved to 17-9-3 overall and 12-7-0 in conference play.
In only his second straight since returning from a 3-week injury absence, Gothberg made 11 saves in the first period, 10 in the second and 12 in the third. He also helped UND hold the Bulldogs scoreless in four power play tries.
“He battled hard for (the shutout),” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “There were some key parts of the game where he had to be our best player and he did that.”
For Gothberg, who has had several shutout opportunities foiled in the late stages of games, the result brought a sense of relief.
“There’s been a couple close calls but I finally got the monkey off my back,” said Gothberg. “But hockey’s a team game it wasn’t just one single guy -- it was everybody that took part in this.”
Eleventh-ranked UND also got a big-time performance from freshman Luke Johnson, who figured in on all three goals after bringing a 12-game goal-scoring drought into the night. Johnson scored a power-play goal 7:49 into the first period, assisted on Rocco Grimaldi’s (So., Rossmoor, Calif.) second-period goal, and completed the scoring with his first career even-strength goal in the third.
Hakstol said he was pleased to see Johnson end his scoring drought.
“He hasn’t had a lot go right for him offensively in the last month but he’s been playing hard and he finally had some things go his way offensively,” said Hakstol.
Johnson, like Gothberg, deflected the praise to his teammates.
“From ‘Zano’ out, I thought we played a pretty sound game defensively and offensively, taking care of pucks and taking care of the d-zone. It was a good win,” said Johnson. “The first half (of the season) was pretty shaky for us. From Christmas break on we’ve been rolling. The guys are really pushing to make something happen here.”
Gothberg, now unbeaten in his last 11 starts, said he was pleased with what he saw in front of him.
“(UMD) did a good job of getting pucks to the net and getting traffic, but for the most part we limited their chances and kept them to the outside,” said Gothberg. “I think our defense and our high guy in the offensive zone did a good job tonight just staying back and really helping our defensemen out.”
The win left UND in the 11th spot in the PairWise rankings, which mimic the selection process for the national tournament. But Hakstol said the national picture remains too fluid to feel comfortable.
“It’s so slippery. (We) just keep looking forward. There’s no magic to it. You can sit and watch the computer rankings or you can just go and try to work hard and find ways to win games,” said Hakstol. “Tonight is a good road win. Now we’ve got to look forward to tomorrow night and what’s going to be another tough battle.
“It’s a good win, we need more.”
UND and UMD will wrap up their 2-game series Saturday night at 7:07 p.m. Central. The game can be seen live in the Grand Forks viewing area on Midco Sports Network.
Notes: UND went 1-6 on the power play wile UMD went 0-4 … Johnson, Gothberg and Grimaldi were named the game’s three stars … Linemates Mark MacMillan, Michael Parks and Luke Johnson each had their 4-game point streaks come to an end … Gothberg’s shutout was UND’s first on the road since Clarke Saunders last November at St. Cloud State.