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For Clairo, “the third time’s the Charm.”
Review: “Charm” by Clairo
Published July 21, 2024

Jaxon Nelson leads Gophers hockey in win over Omaha to advance to regional final

The graduate forward had two goals in the third period in the Gophers’ 3-2 win.
Image by Youth Hockey Hub (courtesy)
The Gophers will face off against Boston University on Saturday after their win over the Mavericks.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Over 200 miles away from Minneapolis, Gophers fans were still present for the NCAA regional round.

Fans were treated to an intense matchup as the No. 7 Gophers defeated the No. 11 University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 3-2 with a third-period rally on Thursday.

Gophers graduate forward Jaxon Nelson took the opening draw at Denny Sanford Premier Center. The native of Magnolia, Minnesota — a town less than 40 minutes from the arena — received a loud cheer from the crowd when his name was announced before the game.

The game began with early physicality and a few shots on goal. Omaha’s offense forced a scoring chance, but Gophers goaltender Justen Close shut down the attempt to keep the game scoreless.

Moments later, Gophers graduate forward Bryce Brodzinski was sent to the penalty box for a slashing infraction to give the Mavericks a power play.

Despite Omaha’s crowd chanting the song “Shots” by LMFAO, the Mavericks could not crack one against Close as the Gophers’ killed the power play.

Sophomore defender Ryan Chesley delivered a hard check to Mavericks forward Jack Randl, who lost his helmet from the collision. Chesley was initially called for an elbowing penalty, but Omaha challenged for head contact and the Gophers received a five-minute major penalty. 

“Seven minutes of penalty killing in the first 24 minutes put us in a hole,” said Gophers head coach Bob Motzko.

The Mavericks started the second period with four minutes left remaining on the player advantage.

Minnesota maintained a tight box to force Omaha’s power play to the outside, but Mavericks defender Joaquim Lemay fired a shot from the point past Close to open the scoring early in the second period.

Omaha’s crowd roared through the first five minutes of the second period as the Mavericks dominated play. However, Close was able to keep the score 1-0 by making a handful of saves.

Near the seven-minute mark of the middle frame, the Gophers created a chance in front of the Mavericks’ goal and drew a cross-checking penalty for their first power play of the night.

Despite a few chances from the Gophers’ second unit, Omaha managed to kill the penalty. Immediately after, sophomore forward John Mittelstadt and Omaha forward Brock Bremer were sent to the penalty box for coincidental minor penalties.

The four-on-four saw a lacrosse-style scoring attempt from Omaha and numerous odd-man rushes but no goals to complement the action.

Before heading into their final regular season series against Michigan, Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said that despite a drought in scoring, freshman forward Jimmy Clark had been playing well. At the time, Clark had yet to score since a late November series against Michigan State.

“He’s ready to jump on that score sheet again,” Motzko said in late February at a press conference. “It’s going to come because he’s been doing so many good things for us.”

When intensity ramped up as play returned to even strength against Omaha, Clark tied the game late in the second period with a short-side shot.

“He’s such a good player,” Motzko said after the game. “He’s going to be a big-time college player.”

Gophers sophomore forward Connor Kurth, who assisted on Clark’s goal, said the successful penalty kills gave the team momentum.

“We’ve got a lot of great [penalty] killers up front,” Kurth said. “Every time they do their job they give us a big spark.”

Despite the flare in motivation after the Gophers’ goal, the Mavericks reclaimed the lead five minutes into the third period as forward Ty Mueller tapped in a pass from Randl.

The building grew increasingly tense as time waned in the close contest. 

With chances going both ways, Brodinzski found Nelson alone in front of Omaha’s goal and he buried the game-tying goal near the midway mark of the third period. Again, the crowd roared for Nelson and provided a boost of energy for the Gophers.

Omaha called a timeout with four and a half minutes remaining after an icing call that warranted a Gophers’ offensive zone faceoff in an attempt to impede Minnesota’s momentum.

The Gophers controlled play after the faceoff, leading to Brodzinski finding Nelson again to bury the go-ahead goal for Minnesota.

The Mavericks came incredibly close to tying the game with an extra attacker, but the Gophers’ defense and Close managed to smother Omaha’s scoring opportunities. 

Minnesota held on to claim a 3-2 victory over Omaha and advance to play No. 2 Boston University on Saturday with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line.

Nelson said having many friends and family to support him created a great atmosphere. 

“It means a lot having the support from the community,” Nelson said. “It makes it a lot easier to go out there and play.”

Motzko had a lot of praise for Nelson after the game and said he was proud of his progression.

“He should get an NHL deal with the way he’s been playing for the last two months,” Motzko said.

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