Team sweeps up victory

Zane Gothberg posts impressive performance in weekend series.

Freshman forward Luke Johnson skates at Ralph Engelstad Arena during the St. Lawrence series earlier this season. Johnson tallied two goals Friday. File photo.

With just 28 seconds left in the game Saturday night, Zane Gothberg’s save in front of the net salvaged North Dakota’s first sweep of the season.

In a scramble in front of the net, the sophomore goaltender extended his right pad across the goal line — stopping the desperate shot by Western Michigan that could have tied the game — and secured North Dakota the 3-2 victory over the Broncos on Saturday after winning in a similar 3-2 battle Friday in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“That was huge by him,” senior captain Dillon Simpson said. “He was unbelievable.”

Gothberg’s save was what kept the sweep within reach for UND.

“Kind of a desperation save,” Gothberg said. “Just the mentality coach talked about — try and get whatever I could over there — whether it’s my body, whether it’s my leg pad … and fortunately it hit my leg pad. I tried to push and get my body behind it and stick out my leg.”

Gothberg finished the weekend with 59 saves in 63 shots — 23 of them coming Saturday. With the win, North Dakota rose to the .500 mark with a 5-5-0 National Collegiate Hockey Conference (7-7-2 overall).

“He was good all the way through,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “The save at the end was a game-saver, but he was real solid all the way through back to back games.”

When Western Michigan’s Kenney Morrison opened scoring with a power play goal at 4:44 of the opening frame, North Dakota wasted no time in responding as Dillon Simpson picked up freshman forward Luke Johnson’s rebound off the end boards and fired it in the net less than four minutes later.

UND’s Paul LaDue increased the margin when he fired a point shot at 16:45 of the first period, sending the Green and White to the locker room ahead 2-1 to begin the second period.

After battling with defensemen in the Broncos’ zone at 6:55 of the second period, Rocco Grimaldi tallied North Dakota’s third goal of the game.

With a power play opportunity and just minutes remaining in the final frame, Western Michigan notched one more goal — but its efforts weren’t enough to take down the Green and White.

“That’s three games in a row our team has played hard,” Hakstol said. “I thought we played with good pace and good contributions from everybody throughout the lineup, and that’s what we have to have.”

North Dakota’s victory Saturday marked its third in a row — but it didn’t come without challenges.

“No better feeling in the world — especially on the road,” Gothberg said. “You’re battling not only the other team, but the emotions that come with the game too. It’s hard to be disciplined in a building like this with their student section and everything going crazy. But our team did a really good job tonight, and we took a step in the right direction.”

Friday rewind

Just as Saturday’s game began, North Dakota found itself on the losing end of a 1-0 deficit on Friday evening after Western Michigan tallied the first goal just minutes into the start of the game.

But a pair of power play goals by Johnson in the first and second periods awarded North Dakota the 2-1 lead to start the third period.

UND senior forward Derek Rodwell put one in the back of the net in the middle of the third.

With one second left on the clock, Western Michigan’s Josh Pitt fired a shot in past Gothberg to push the score to 3-2, but North Dakota came away with the victory.

“Each weekend has presented a different challenge for us, but I think the singular focus right now has to be turning the page and getting to Saturday right away,” junior Nick Mattson said. “We’re not really in a position to pat ourselves on the back. We need to climb out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves.”

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].