TOM MILLER: Gothberg starting to build consistency
KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Western Michigan's Lawson Arena and its student section, known as the Lawson Lunatics, provided the UND men's hockey team one of the best road atmospheres of the season.
For every rowdy group of college kids, the easiest target is the opposing goalie. UND netminder Zane Gothberg wasn't an exception.
Gothberg knew the best response.
"You take it with a grin," he said. "You have to love playing in these games."
Gothberg wasn't rattled by the crowd or a feisty Western Michigan team as he turned in his third consecutive solid performance Saturday in UND's 3-2 win over the Broncos.
Gothberg made 23 saves, including 12 in a WMU-dominated first period. He made a sliding pad save in the final moments that had fans from both teams popping out of their seats.
This victory will be most remembered for Gothberg's highlight-reel save, yet it was the steady performance over the past three games that has to have the UND coaching staff the most excited.
Gothberg stole the show all weekend after making 36 saves Friday, stuffing the Broncos on all seven power-play chances.
Gothberg, a sophomore from Thief River Falls, hasn't taken the reins of the starting job and ran with it yet.
This stretch, UND's first sweep and first three-game winning streak of the season, could be a step toward Gothberg making UND coach Dave Hakstol's goaltending decisions easy.
"I was seeing the puck better compared to most games," Gothberg said. "I know what I'm capable of doing and how I'm capable of performing every night. I just have to keep on improving."
As for the road atmosphere, Gothberg didn't mind being the subject of chants.
"It's hard to be disciplined in a building like this," Gothberg said. "It's fun, though. You have to take it as a challenge."
A handful of UND players said Gothberg's strong play is infectious throughout the lineup.
"He was unbelievable," UND captain Dillon Simpson said. "When a guy is playing like that, you have all the faith in the world in him. We know he's going to build a brick wall back there. We're confident regardless of who's in net, but Zano's rolling right now. Hopefully he can have a good stretch here."
Miller reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1121, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1121 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.