Gophers Veteran Leaderships Steps Up In The 3-1 Win Over Penn State

November 11th, 2022: Bryce Brodzinksi rattled off two goals in a minute and six seconds and eventually sealed the deal on a 3-1 win over Penn State.

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – Penn State has 13 upperclassmen who played tonight out of their 20 players. They only had one freshman forward, as opposed to the Gophers’ six freshmen forwards and nine total who played tonight. On a team with that many freshmen, you need upperclassmen to step up and that’s exactly what Bryce Brodzinski and Jaxon Nelson did tonight.

“We’re playing a very veteran hockey team and our veterans took over,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said on Brodzinksi, Nelson, and Mason Nevers stepping up. “That’s what we needed, a junior and two seniors, and that’s what needed to happen.”

Despite a better start to the first period than yesterday, the Gophers still entered the second period down a goal. They produced offensive chances, they got shots, and they attempted many, but more neutral zone cough-ups led to more chances for Penn State. Justen Close stood tall though. 

Close stopped 33 out of the 34 shots he faced tonight and improved to 7-4-0 on the year with a .923 save percentage and a 1.73 goals-against average.

“They throw pucks and he has to be ready at all times,” Nelson said on Close. “He is always calm back there and knows what to do. It seems like he’s always in the right spot.”

Penn State got their first goal just 12 minutes into the game. Yesterday Christian Sarlo came out of the box and scored with five seconds on the clock to give the Nittany Lions a 2-1 lead heading into the third. Tonight he records the game’s first goal just 12 minutes in.

Xander Lamppa pickpocketed Garrett Pinoniemi in front of Close, skated behind the net, waited, and sauced one right on the blade of Sarlo. The junior forward notched his second goal of the year and sixth point. Lamppa notched his eighth point of the year on his fifth assist. 

Penn State forced a turnover in front of Close and capitalized. Moving forward, the Nittany Lions tried doing the same thing but the senior netminder continued to bail out his teammates. That was until the Gophers were given a power play in the second period down a goal. 

Luke Mittelstadt went down low from the blue line to the dot then cycled one back to the point for Mike Koster. The junior defender used his shoot-first mentality and ripped one on the net. With both Aaron Huglen, who scored his first goal of the season yesterday, and Nevers in front, Liam Souliere was screened and Nevers tipped home his fifth of the year.

That was Nevers’ third goal in his last five games and fifth point in his last six games. He has eight points in 12 games for the Gophers this year. Koster notched his fourth assist and fifth point of the year and Mittelstadt recorded his fifth assist and fifth point in 12 games.

Just seven minutes into the third period Bryce Brodzinski notched his second goal of the series of an unbelievable pass by Jaxon Nelson. The senior center kept the puck in from the line and sent one over to his senior line-mate, Brodzinksi ripped home his third of the year over Liam Souliere’s blocker. 

Brodzinski is a streaky player, when he is hot you keep playing him and when he is in a slump you try to pick him up. He’s a goal scorer and an offensive guy. So after giving the Gophers a 2-1 lead with 13:05 left in the third period, Motzko kept his line on the ice.

Just one minute and six seconds later, Nelson battled along the boards with Nevers. The puck squirted free and Jimmy Dowd Jr. picked it up. Nelson bolted towards the Penn State junior defender and blasted him into the boards. Nelson picked up the puck and threw one in front for Brodzinksi, the native of Blaine, Minnesota, ripped one over the glove of Souliere making it 3-1.

Brodzinksi now has three goals and four points in his last three games and five goals and seven points in 12 games this year for the Gophers. Nelson now has six assists and seven points in his last seven games. That’s good for ten points in 12 games this season.

“He’s my best friend on the team,” Brodzinksi said about Nelson. “If something funny happens in my day I’ll text him and tell him. It’s nice to play with him. If he does something wrong or if I do something wrong, we yell at each other and we aren’t afraid of it.”

Although it was all upperclassmen who shined tonight for the Gophers, it’s nice for the younger guys to feel what these games are like. Penn State is a hard team to play against, they force you to make mistakes and want to push you to the outside. They don’t allow much offense because they are always looking for the offense of their own.

This style of hockey can be hard for youngsters like the Gophers’ nine freshmen who played tonight. They are all very offensively skilled and gifted so not being able to get those chances is tough on them but these are the types of games you want them to play in, especially early in the year.

In the final minutes of the third period, Penn State pulled their goalie. Motzko sent out freshman Brody Lamb to try to keep the game 3-1. Lamb came up with a huge shot block and later cleared the zone.

“You keep calling younger guys to go out there, they have got to be in these games,” Motzko said. “That play by Lamb at the end. Those are golden moments for young guys to be in.”

The Gophers are set for six games on the road with two against Michigan University next weekend. They travel to Arizona to play ASU after Thanksgiving, then travel back to Michigan to face the Spartans. Just more great tests for the Gophers early in the season because after that road trip they return home for two games against Wisconsin on the ninth and tenth of December and then don’t play league play until January seventh.

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