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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published February 21 2014

Gothberg leads UND to win

DULUTH, Minn. – Zane Gothberg earned his first-career shutout Friday night, but he didn’t have much to say about it.

There was a bigger picture to look at.

After a trying first half of the season, the University of North Dakota surged into a first-place tie in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings thanks to a 3-0 victory over Minnesota Duluth in AmsOil Arena.

Luke Johnson scored twice and had an assist, while Rocco Grimaldi added a goal to help UND improve to 13-2-1 in the last 16 games.

Left for dead after a 4-7-2 start, UND has the second-best record in the nation since Nov. 30 and has climbed into a tie with St. Cloud State (36 points) in the chase for the inaugural Penrose Cup, which was in the building Friday night.

On the national scene, UND has vaulted to No. 11 in the Pairwise Rankings, which would be high enough to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if the season ended today.

“It’s so slippery right now,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Just keep looking forward. There’s no magic to it. You can sit and watch the computer rankings or you can go and work hard and find ways to win games. We’ve got to win a lot of hockey games coming up here if we want to put ourselves in a good position. Tonight was a good win. Now, we’ve got to look forward to tomorrow night and what’s going to be a real tough battle. They are a real good hockey team.

“It’s a good win. We need more.”

The victory started with an outstanding performance by Gothberg, who stopped all 33 Bulldog shots. The most notable saves came off of the stick of Bulldogs forward Justin Crandall (10 goals on the season), who had three Grade A opportunities.

He also got a little help from his posts. Both Andy Welinski and Crandall rang shots off the iron.

“I finally got the monkey off my back,” said Gothberg, who was in his second game back from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for a month. “But hockey’s a team game. It wasn’t one single guy. It was everyone who took part in this.

“I have confidence in what I’m doing and confidence in what our training staff is doing. I’ve just got to take care of myself and my body now.”

UND scored once in each period and Johnson, a freshman from Grand Forks, played a big role in all three goals.

In the first period, he got the puck at the top of the left circle, walked it a few steps and snapped a wrist shot over the glove of Bulldog goalie Aaron Crandall for a power-play goal.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, UND, Johnson (Mattson, LaDue), 7:49.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, UND, Grimaldi (Johnson, Thompson), 4:46.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, UND, Johnson, 12:52.

SAVES: UND, Gothberg 11-10-12—33. : D, Crandall 8-7-3—18.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald