Saunders, Gothberg supply similar numbersGRAND FORKS — Everything is starting to seem normal.
By: Brad Schlossman, Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — Everything is starting to seem normal.
With two weeks in the regular season, the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team is chugging along with an 11th straight NCAA tournament berth in sight.
The lines are becoming solidified and the players are learning their roles.
But there’s just one thing that’s odd about this late season push: UND has no clue who its No. 1 goalie is.
Freshman Zane Gothberg and junior Clarke Saunders have taken turns making statements for the job. And every time you think one guy is going to be the No. 1 for the stretch run, the door opens back up and the other guy makes his case.
“It still has to play itself out,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “The great positive is that I think we have two good goaltenders — guys that have gone in and won games for us.”
Saunders started nine straight games from Nov. 30 to Jan. 11 and appeared to be the No. 1 guy. But Gothberg went back in and made a case for more playing time in late January.
After a couple of excellent games against the University of Wisconsin, he appeared to be the No. 1 guy for the stretch run. Gothberg started five straight games and seven of eight until he struggled last Friday at Denver.
Hakstol went back to Saunders for the series finale against the Pioneers and the junior was outstanding.
“I think everyone looks at it and says that it was a 6-1 hockey game,” Hakstol said. “Well, break that game down and you’ll see how well Clarke played.
“Zane is coming off of a great month. We have two quality people, two quality goaltenders. At some point in time, one of those guys is going to take the net and take us through the stretch run. But we’re not there right now. We have two quality guys who deserve to be in the nets.”
Their numbers are eerily similar.
Saunders has a .916 save percentage. Gothberg has a .916 save percentage. Saunders is 11-6-4 (.619). Gothberg is 6-3-2 (.636).
Saunders, who has had several NHL teams watch him play this season, while Gothberg has NHL pedigree as well. He was drafted by the Boston Bruins a couple of years ago.
“They’re competitive people and they want to play minutes,” Hakstol said. “They want to help their team win.”
Despite the fierce competition, Hakstol said that Saunders, Gothberg and third-string goalie Tate Maris have all been great friends this season.
“All three guys have done a great job of being a goaltending team,” Hakstol said. “I think it has been a long time since we’ve seen three guys who support each other as well as these three do, no matter who is in the net on any one given night.”
And at this point, it’s anybody’s guess on who that might be.