Nelson Finds Scoring Touch as Sophomore
Leads North Dakota to Third Straight Broadmoor Trophy
by Eric Stromgren/CHN Writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. Brock Nelson has been one of North Dakota's most consistent players through the peaks and valleys of the season.
The sophomore forward continued to contribute in the postseason with five goals in the WCHA Final Five and earned a selection to the All-Tournament Team with four of his teammates.
"I think our line and our team played great, so that made it easier for everyone," Nelson said. "We just wanted to focus on playing a good, solid team game. We had a couple of slow starts, but I think everyone stepped up and played well."
His goals came at important times in UND's championship run. He scored the game-winning goal in the 4-1 quarterfinal win against St. Cloud State on Thursday and scored the tying goal to erase a three-goal deficit in the 6-3 semifinal win over Minnesota on Friday.
Nelson capped a standout weekend by scoring the first goal, the game-winner on the power play, in the 4-0 win over Denver in Saturday's championship. North Dakota circled the Broadmoor Trophy for a stick salute at center ice after the game to mark the end of a WCHA season that started 4-7-1 and ended with 21 wins in 28 games.
"Back in November I think a lot of people counted us out and the guys in the locker room just stuck with it," Nelson said. "We had a good team in there and we kept on battling through all the adversity we faced. Being here to raise that trophy now was something special."
Nelson has 27 goals on the year, which is the most by a UND sophomore since Ryan Duncan scored 31 during his Hobey Baker Award season in 2006-07. He's also UND's youngest 20-goal scorer since Jonathan Toews scored 22 as a freshman in 2005-06.
"Danny (Kristo) and Knighter (Corban Knight) are great players so that makes it a little bit easier on me," Nelson said. "All the guys here are great players and play at such a high level so it makes my job easier when I'm out on the ice with those guys. The power play has been great. Just all the little things everyone does contributes to success for everybody."
Nelson came to North Dakota after a 39-goal and 73-point season in 25 games as a senior at Warroad (Minn.) High School. He was picked 30th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft and scored eight goals in 42 games as a freshman last season.
Nelson's first season at UND ended with a fractured tailbone in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal loss to Michigan. He said the injury set him back in some training routines but the recovery progressed without problems and was grateful for the support in North Dakota.
"It was a good process and I think I came back stronger," Nelson said.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 192 pounds, Nelson continued to keep a focus on conditioning during his sophomore year because he sees it as a key to reaching the NHL in the future.
"At the next level guys are bigger, stronger and faster," Nelson said. "That's something I need to continue to work on and defensively, I need to find that area a little bit. Offensively I need to stick with it and hopefully things work out."
Nelson comes from a family with deep hockey roots.
His uncle Dave Christian played for the Sioux and was a member of the gold-medal winning 'Miracle on Ice' Team USA squad at the 1980 Olympics. His grandfather Billy Christian and great uncle Roger Christian played for the 1960 gold-medal winning team, and great uncle Gordon 'Ginny' Christian played in the 1956 Olympics. All of the Christians played at North Dakota.
"One of the main things they say is just have fun and play the game you know how to play," Nelson said. "They were great players and mentors for me. It's awesome to have them behind my back and they've supported me. They are a phone call or a text message away so to get advice from them or support is something special."
As North Dakota moves into the NCAA Tournament, no player may be more critical to success than Nelson. UND is 16-4-0 when he scores a goal and 9-8-3 when he does not score.
"Coming down here it was our goal to win this (Final Five) and not worry about next weekend," Nelson said. "Now we have to turn our focus, regroup and gather ourselves in for our next opponent whoever that may be. We just have to get ready to play. Four games is all it takes to win a national championship so that's our goal."