Nelson nets game-winner in Gophers’ exhibition win at BSU

Jaxon Nelson scored with 1:08 remaining in the third period sending the No. 1/3 Minnesota men’s hockey team into 2023 with a 2-1 exhibition victory at Bemidji State Saturday evening from Sanford Center.

Nelson blasted a one-timer at the top of the right circle off a drop pass from Brody Lamb to break a 1-1 tie and send the Gophers home with a win against the Beavers, a team receiving votes in both national polls. Lamb assisted on both goals for the visitors in the final game of the 2022 calendar year, while Nelson added an assist on Matthew Knies’ power-play goal in the first for a two-point effort.

The Beavers came out and hit the post on the game’s first shift and nearly opened the scoring three minutes into the contest. The home side challenged a shot that Owen Bartoszkiewicz caught in his glove and a video review confirmed the no-goal call on the ice. The Gophers were held without an official shot for more than nine minutes as the scoreless action continued until BSU scored for a 1-0 lead at the 11:52 mark.

The deficit was short lived as Knies put away a power-play goal for Minnesota two minutes later. The sophomore gathered the puck below the goal line and immediately went to the net, sliding home a wraparound to pull even, 1-1, before the first intermission.

Both teams generated scoring chances beginning the second frame, but neither side was able to break the tie. The Maroon and Gold were forced to kill off a penalty in the middle of the stanza that kept it a 1-1 game. After Bartoszkiewicz made a sprawling save early in the final period, Knies made a bid for his second goal as his shot on the rush missed the near post.

The Gophers earned a man advantage at the 7:25 point of the third frame and that allowed the visitors to build momentum offensively by controlling the puck in the zone for almost the entire two minutes. Shortly following the power play, Rhett Pitlick, Bryce Brodzinski and John Mittelstadt all came close to getting the go-ahead tally only to have BSU stop each opportunity.

With time winding down, Ryan Johnson created a turnover in the neutral zone that allowed Minnesota to get the puck and Lamb carried it into the offensive zone. He dropped it back to a streaking Nelson, who let loose a slapshot that beat the Beavers goaltender glove side for the 2-1 winner.

Bartoszkiewicz played the entire 60 minutes in goal and turned away 19-of-20 shots faced to pick up the exhibition victory.