Gophers’ Brodzinski, Nelson carry Minnesota to a 6-5 overtime win against Michigan State

November 26th, 2023: Jimmy Clark scored the overtime game winning goal in another back-and-forth game against Michigan State. 

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Jimmy Clark celebrates a game winning overtime goal with Sam Rinzel in a game against Michigan State on November 26th, 2023. Photo By: Matt Krohn

Minneapolis – There is no denying this team is pretty young with 17 under-classmen on the roster and only eight upper-classmen. But four of the eight are graduate students and all four have been holding this team above the water this season.

It comes with experience and more games but there have been some mistakes made by the young guys and some by the older guys but the Gophers have now finished the month of November with only one loss even though everyone in the world thinks this team has lost multiple times this month and the wheels are falling off the bus. 

“We are probably the most under the radar team there is,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said. “We’ve only lost one game in the last month and nobody knows it, even our guys don’t know it because of the youth with us. We are riding the waves. As soon as we mature and settle down, I think better things are to come.”

A big part of the Gophers team last year was their second line with Bryce Brodzinski, Jaxon Nelson, and Mason Nevers. Since Nevers has been back from his injury, that line has been carrying the weight of this Gopher team on their shoulders it seems. 

“We know where each other are and if we don’t see something we aren’t afraid to tell each other,” Brodzinski said on playing with Nevers and Nelson. “If you’re playing with guys you’re not comfortable with it’s hard to tell them if they made a mistake and we are definitely not afraid to tell each other. It’s always good to be able to play with those guys.”

In eight games this month, Nelson has recorded two goals and nine points, Brodzinski has six goals and 13 points, and Nevers has three assists for three points in eight games. 

“That line and I’ll kinda single out Nelson, have kind of put the weight of our team on them,” Motzko said on Nelson’s line. “Kind of looking like everyone else grow up. As our young players continue to grow up, I can’t say enough of them.”

Since his injury, Nevers has been playing well but they still hope to get him going. Brodzinski is a very streaky player and he has been for five years but he is really on right now which has been great for this team. 

“Mason was injured, it took him a while to get in game shape and we are still getting him there now,” Motzko said. “It took awhile for Brodzinski to get going but Nelson has been a constant for us and that line now for a few weeks have been a real constant for us.”

Today, Brodzinski got the Gophers on the board early with his seventh goal of the year after Luke Mittelstadt fed him a pass on the power play. But as this young team has done before, a mistake in front of Justen Close allowed Red Savage to tie the game. 

But 15 seconds into the second period, the Gophers drew a penalty again which sent them on the power play for the third time of the night after scoring on their first chance. The Gophers won the faceoff but eventually a loose puck got past Mittelstadt at the point and David Gucciardi picked it up and streaked in on a shorthanded breakaway to give the Spartans the lead. 

For the second straight game, Tommi Mannisto received a five minute major and a game misconduct for a boarding. It was to Mike Koster on Friday and Sam Rinzel today. This sent the Gophers back to the power play but just about 40 seconds later Jimmy Snuggerud received a five minute major and a game misconduct for the same hit which erased the Gophers five minute power play. 

Not long later, Nelson forced a turnover behind the net then connected with Brody Lamb who passed one to Ryan Chesley who ripped home his second of the year and second goal in his last three games. Brodzinski added another power-play goal two minutes later but Patrick Geary tied it up with under three minutes left in the second period to tie the game at 3-3. 

It only took 59 seconds into the third period before Connor Kurth picked up his second goal in his last two games after Rhett Pitlick picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone to spring Kurth for a breakaway. 

Pitlick picked up a power-play goal about ten minutes later giving the Gophers a 5-3 lead and seemed to have turned all the momentum in Minnesota’s favor but Nash Nienhuis had other ideas when he ripped home his sixth of the year five minutes later which was followed up by a goal by Joey Larson with 18 seconds left in the third period. 

After Snuggerud was kicked out of the game in the second period, Jimmy Clark was elevated from the fourth line to play with Aaron Huglen and Lamb and the freshman forward looked very good. 

His strong game and strong season earned him a chance to get a shift in overtime and the Edina native scored his fourth of the year after a great pass from Rinzel, ending the game 6-5. 

Clark became the second freshmen in the last five years to score an overtime winner for the Gophers, per Gopher Game Notes on Twitter. Before Logan Cooley’s overtime winner on January 8th against St. Cloud, the last Gophers rookie to score an overtime winner was Casey Mittelstadt in a 1-0 home win over Notre Dame in 2018. 

“Absolutely,” Motzko said on if it was good to see Clark get rewarded for his strong play. “It was a great pass out of the corner by Rinzel. Their guy broke a stick, our guy smelled it, good puck movement and I think everyone touched the puck on the shift.”

This team seems to be at their best when they have their older guys going and producing and right now every one of their older veterans are producing and it can be shown with only one loss in November. 

“He and I are like an old movie together,” Motzko said of Brodzinski. “We can be off to a slow start and he’s mad at me, now he’s not mad because he’s scoring, and now we talk again. It’s been five years of it and he’s doing a lot of good things for us.”

Brodzinski only had three points in the first five games of the season and the Gophers went 3-3 in that span. Since then the Gophers are 4-1-3 and Brodzinski has six goals and 13 points in eight games. 

It’s great to get these older guys going, specifically Brodzinski right before the Gophers go on the road for the next four games before they return home for an exhibition game on January 1st. 

“We are getting better in a lot of areas,” Motzko said. “I think we can look completely different in another month and we have to stay on course.” 

One of the areas the Gophers need to be a bit better in would be to play a team game. Don’t just rely a bunch on skill and talent alone but play a team structure and stick to the basics. We have seen this team do that this season in stretches and it has looked wonderful.  

“Obviously we lost a lot of big name players from last year’s team but I think we are just as good as last year’s team,” Graduate student and Co-Captain Jaxon Nelson said. “I think some people kind of overlook that, we just have to learn how to play differently than last year’s team. We aren’t going to win every game in the parking lot, we have to win the games within the 60 minutes.”

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