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Published March 28 2012

Gothberg enjoying prolific season with Force

Fargo - The scene has already played out in Zane Gothberg’s head.

He can picture his mother and grandmother sitting in the Scheels Arena lounge after a Fargo Force game.

They’d laugh and use a few choice words to describe what happened last year.

But he then says his grandmother would have a few words for current Force coach John Marks.

“She’d say, ‘Thank you,’” Gothberg said. “She’d tell Coach Marks ‘thank you’ for everything he’s done for me.”

Gothberg has to picture it in his head because none of this will ever happen.

The 19-year-old Force goaltender lost his grandmother over the summer to pneumonia and bronchitis.

She was 70 years old.

Gothberg, last season, went through the most challenging stretch of his life.

He frequently visited his grandmother in the hospital along with being the Force’s No. 2 goaltender, which was a task for someone who has always been a No. 1 choice.

Those experiences molded Gothberg for this season, where he’s having arguably the best campaign of any player in Force history.

“You couldn’t ask more of him from the way he’s played this season,” said Force captain Brian Cooper. “He’s the backbone of our team. He’s been there for us when we’ve had our downfall. I know I couldn’t ask for more of him.”

Gothberg, a University of North Dakota commit, is 24-14-4 with a 2.29 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and six shutouts.

His six shutouts doubled the previous franchise record.

His 24 wins are three away from setting the franchise record for the most in a season.

His 39 career wins are tied for the most by a player in franchise history.

With eight games left, he has the chance to own every franchise record a goaltender could have.

“You’ve got to be confident back there,” Gothberg said. “If you’re confident, others will be too. It’s about sticking to your word and from there just continuing to be confident.”

Gothberg came to Fargo last season with high expectations.

As a junior, he committed to North Dakota.

He won the Frank Brimsek Award as Minnesota’s best senior goaltender while playing at Thief River Falls.

Gothberg, months later, was drafted by the Boston Bruins.

“With him, he has been such a good kid and I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it is almost too good to be true,” said Gothberg’s high school coach, Tim Bergland. “When you meet him, you wonder if this kid is for real and you try to figure him out. You then realize he is as real as it gets.”

Force forward Bryn Chyzyk has seen firsthand the traits that have made Gothberg so endearing.

Chyzyk said Gothberg has a way with people. He has a way of making every conversation he has with someone meaningful.

“It’s at a point where you can’t go anywhere with him,” said Chyzyk, who will play with Gothberg next season at North Dakota. “He has long conversations with everyone, even people he never met before.”

Maybe Gothberg got the social bug from his grandmother.

Sue McIntyre, who Gothberg has described as outgoing, never missed one of her grandson’s games. There were even times she’d drive him to practice.

But it is not as if she’s gone from her grandson’s memory.

Gothberg put an image of his grandmother on the back of his helmet so that way she’s always there.

It’s just his way of saying thanks.

“I only get one more year out of this, so I have to take as much as I can,” Gothberg said. “It’s tremendous. You build a lot of bonds here, more than you would any other place.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com