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Tom Mix, Published March 23 2012

Force defeats Des Moines in opening game of series

FARGO – For the second game in a row, Fargo Force goalie Zane Gothberg didn’t let a puck go in on his watch.

The second-year Force netminder recorded his sixth shutout of the season to help Fargo to a 2-0 win over Des Moines in a United States Hockey League game on Friday at Scheels Arena.

“It definitely helps out seeing a lot of pucks,” Gothberg said. “It makes it easy when your defensemen stand in front of you and block shots. I know in the third period there was five minutes left and Taylor Richart goes down with his whole body and slides into the puck.”

“I got the shot and the defensemen got the shooters. We’re simplifying things now, and it’s working out.”

Gothberg, a former Theif River Falls, Minn., standout and University of North Dakota commit, made 25 saves in the victory and was coming off of a 26-save shutout against Omaha last Sunday.

It was Gothberg’s eighth career shutout with the Force.

“He’s outstanding,” Force head coach John Marks said. “I think he’s the best goalie in the league. … From last year to this year, from what I understand, is night and day. His work ethic is outstanding. His preparation is outstanding. He’s bigger and stronger than he was last year. North Dakota has got themselves a good goaltender.”

The game was the first time Fargo and Des Moines played on the same ice since an off-ice incident on March 10, in which Buccaneers players Kevin Irwin and Tanner Karty allegedly assaulted Force player Neal Goff and Goff’s 79-year-old grandfather at Buccaneer Arena in Urbandale, Iowa. The assault stemmed from a racial comment made by Goff that was directed at Des Moines player Trent Samuels-Thomas during a March 9 contest.

The USHL commissioner Skip Prince was in attendance Friday and levied an eight-game suspension to Goff for his conduct two weeks ago. Goff’s suspension was reduced to six games after he apologized to Samuels-Thomas before the Friday’s game.

Goff, Karty and Irwin did not play on Friday.

After the Force and Buccaneers skated to a scoreless first period, Fargo (28-20-5) got on the board when Willie Corrin slipped a shot past Des Moines goalie Pheonix Copley with 30.5 seconds left to play in the second.

The Force got a two-goal cushion at the 8 minute, 33 second mark of the third period when Nate Arentz put a shot on net, deflecting just enough to catch the twine in the upper left part of the goal.

“Tonight, whoever scores first is going to be tough,” Marks said. “Getting that insurance goal was big. It was a nice play … Sure it went off somebody’s stick, but if you put the puck on the net good things happen.”

Paired with the win over the Lancers, Friday’s win cancels out a poor series last week against Tri City.

“To get two big wins, especially this time of year is huge,” Gothberg said. “Guys are just having a good time … We just got to keep the ball rolling.”

Slapshots

The Fargo Force have nine alumni playing in the 2012 NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament. Chad Demers, Dan Weissenhofer, Keegan Flaherty, Nate Condon, Nate Schmidt, Garrett Haar, Luke Witkowski, Jimmy Mullin and Steve Spinell represent five different teams at three of the four regionals.

E Demers and Weissenhofer play for Air Force, which plays Boston College at 3 p.m. today in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.

E Flaherty is a member of the NCAA defending champions Minnesota Duluth, which plays Maine at 6:30 p.m. today in the Northeast Regional.

E Condon and Schmidt play for the University of Minnesota, which plays Boston University at 4 p.m. today in the West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center.

E Haar and Witkowski play for Western Michigan, which plays the University of North Dakota 12:30 p.m. in the West Regional.

E Mullin and Spinell play for Miami University (Ohio), which lost to UMass-Lowell 4-3 Friday in the East Regional semifinals in Bridgeport, Conn.

FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.

SECOND PERIOD: 1, F, Corrin, (Wade, Arentz), 19:30.

THIRD PERIOD: 2, F, Arentz (Dickman, Wade), 8:33.

SAVES: D, Copley 7-8-10–25. F, Gothberg 7-11-7–25.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 451-5651