All Around The World…

Fargo Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis said defenseman Victor Bjorkung (Maine) will play with the team next season.

Bjorkung, 19, was a late-round selection last month in the USHL Entry Draft.

“We just offered him last week and he’s coming for sure,” Davis said. “He had to work on getting his visa and stuff like that. He got everything in place and booked his plane tickets and he’s coming to play in our league. The rumors that he was looking at other options are pretty much all done.”

Bjorkung has spent three of his last four seasons playing with the Djurgarden program in his native Sweden. He also spent a season with Malmo. He played 42 games last season scoring 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) for the U-20 team. In the 2010-11 season, he split time between Djugarden’s U-18 Elite Team, the program’s U-18 Allsvenskan and one game in the Super Elite league.

Between the three leagues, he scored 27 points in 38 games. Altogether, he played in 120 games scoring 77 points during his time in Sweden.

Davis previously said leading up to the draft the team hadn’t heard about Bjorkung but kept hearing his name come up from various parties.

Those same parties told Davis that Bjorkung had accepted a scholarship to play at Maine but was also weighing options to play professionally back in Sweden. It is why the Force took him in the later rounds and it’s what Davis called taking a pick on a player whose still sorting over their future.

“He’s all set to come over and we spoke with his father,” Davis said. “Now they’re just trying to figure out what to bring over. I just told them to pack some warm clothes.”

Bjorkung has been described as a, “high-end, skilled defenseman” at the time the Force took him in the draft. The plan would be for Bjorkung to play on the power play, which was one of the best in the entire USHL last season.

Getting the 6-foot, 174-pound Bjorkung could also help make up for the losses the Force’s blueline have suffered this off-season. The Force were already losing Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) and potential second-round selection Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) to college for next season.

Shortly after training camp, the team lost Taylor Richart who accepted a scholarship from Miami (Ohio), where he will be playing next season.

It leaves the Force with at least four defensemen expected to return from last year’s team in Justin Wade (Notre Dame), Dominic Racobaldo, Neal Goff and Taylor Fleming. Defenseman David Mead’s future is still up in the air with the team which could leave another opening on the blueline.

The returning four defenseman plus Bjorkung and tender signee Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) give the Force at least six justified defensemen before heading into their pre-season camp which will begin in August.

Nothin’ On You…

Turns out the chat between Miami (Ohio) and Taylor Richart turned out to be a good one after all.

Richart committed to Miami on Friday and will be at the school for the fall bringing his tenure with the Force to an end after one season, which was certainly successful.

He was only one of two players to play all of the team’s 60 games last season and put up an offensive punch every now and again by scoring 16 points. Richart burst onto the scene picking up the league’s defenseman of the week award to open the season.

Richart might not have put up the numbers as he did finish outside the Top 25 among defensemen in points. Yet what he did do was give the Force a defenseman comfortable enough to play in every scenario.

The 5-9, 160 pound Richart was part of a power play and a penalty kill which finished in the Top 5 last season helping the Force overcome a torrid start to end the season in fourth heading into the playoffs.

Richart to Miami started to really generate momentum after the Force’s tryout camp, which was held last week here in the Minneapolis area. Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis addressed the rumors Richart committed right after camp stating both Richart and Miami were seen talking to each other in the lobby of the rink where the camp was held.

His departure now means the Force have lost two players for next season who could have come back. Forward Jonny Brodzinski, who played at Blaine (MN-HS) with Richart, said weeks ago he will play next season at St. Cloud State.

Richart’s departure also means the Force’s defense will have a bit of a different look. He becomes the third defenseman to leave the team meaning Justin Wade (Notre Dame), will be the team’s only Top 4 returning defenseman.

It appears, at least for now, Wade will be joined by fellow returners Neal Goff, Taylor Fleming and Dominic Racobaldo. Defenseman David Mead’s future with the team is in flux after he was one of four Force players selected in the NAHL Draft.

Assuming the Force only return four defensemen, the team does have its options. Tender signee Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) will be on the roster next year as league rules require the Force to dress him in a specific amount of games.

Though the Force do have plenty of options. Entry draft pick Charles Hemstrom appears to be one of the players the Force will rely upon to fill that void. Hemstrom spent last season in the NAHL and was a plus-19 in 38 games last season. Davis hinted weeks ago Hemstrom will make the team  when he said Hemstrom fit the one of the needs the Force would have for the 2012-13 season.

Another option could be another entry draft pick Victor Bjorkung (Maine), who is also weighing offers to turn professional in his native Sweden.

This also means there’s a stronger chance both Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota) and Dante Suffredini among others could be included in the team’s plans for next season.

Pelnik, who at 6-4 and 185 pounds, might have been the team’s most vaunted prospect for the entire year. He committed to North Dakota at 15 becoming the first person from North Carolina to do so.

It was expected for Pelnik to play for the Force last season but he spent the season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (MN-HS) to further his development.

Suffredini, however, spent last season at Detroit Honeybaked playing midgets.

In Defense Of The Genre…

There are plenty of reasons why the Fargo Force were able to reach the USHL Playoffs.

One of them was the Force’s defense, which statistically ranks as one of the Top 3 defenses in the entire league. It also happens to be arguably the best in the entire Western Conference.

Conference-wise, the Force had the lowest goals allowed total in the West. In the league, they were third. Throw in a penalty kill which ranked third in the league and it is easy to see why the Force could be an attractive choice to make when it comes to picking a Western Conference champion.

So how does a defense like this work? We asked the boys on the blueline to either define their role on the team or what makes this one of the USHL’s best defenses. Here’s what they had to say:

On what makes this one of the league’s best defenses:

“First thing is we don’t spend a lot of time playing with the puck. If we play with it turns into a turnover. Secondly, gap control. Thirdly, just pressure to the corners. Just the defensive zone always keeping the guy in front. I’d say those are three things we do well,” – Dominic Racobaldo

“What makes it works is everyone knows all the defenses in our system. We have certain players who compliment each other pretty well. We’ll back up each other and we can read each other pretty well,”  – Justin Wade (Notre Dame)

“Honestly, we do the little things right. We are not flashy. We are not looking to get points every single night. We’re a grinder, defensive team. We get in our defensive zone. We contribute in the offensive zone. Contributing in the offensive zone helps us in the defensive zone,” – David Mead

“Coach has us paired up with the right guy. You can take me and Wade. He’s a really physical guy and I am not the most physical guy. I am skilled guy and he’s more of a physical guy and we even each other out a lot. That goes all the way down. T-Bone plays really well with Rocco. One’s a small guy and the other is a big guy. Cooper and Fleming. Both are littler guys but they can wheel around,” – Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth)

 

On what your role is on this defense:

“My role is to bring energy every night. I’d describe myself as a puck-moving defenseman. My role is to make good plays, make good breakouts and regroup when its over. That’s my role as a defenseman,” – Taylor Fleming

“I think my role is kind of getting the puck out and blocking shots. Doing the grinding stuff. If I get a chance to jump up into the play, then I will but its mainly knowing where to be at all times.” – Taylor Richart

“Just more of bringing my ‘A’ game everyday. If things are not going well, I just want to simplify it a bit. Just throwing my points in here and there to help out the team and knowing that the guys can trust me. That I can be a safety valve. I want to be out there the last minute-and-a half whether we are up a goal or down a goal. I want to be the rock,” – Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha)

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing…

Force coach John Marks was rattling off the list of names who could join forwards Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State) and Nate Arentz on the team’s third line for the playoffs.

When Marks reached the end of the list, he was then asked about would he consider defenseman Neal Goff to play alongside Brodzinski and Arentz.

“Absolutely, absolutely” Marks said in his strong Canadian prairie tone which is eerily similar to that of Hockey Night In Canada’s Don Cherry. “I know he is going to work and be responsible defensively and that’s a key element come playoff time.”

Goff, who has scored five points in 32 games this season, has been splitting time at forward lately trying to work his way onto what could be the ninth and final forward spot.

Marks has said for the last two weeks he’s going to roll three lines in the hopes of getting more consistency and flow from his forwards. He admitted Saturday night he could send out a fourth line but they wouldn’t be used frequently unless the situation called for it.

“You know what, I just have to do everything within my power and keep working as hard as I can,” Goff said. “Whether its on forward or defense, so be it. I think I can be used at forward and it might be at forward. Hopefully, like you said, I can get on that third line. I enjoy both positions and I plan on doing whatever (Marks) wants.”

Finding someone to go with Brodizinski and Arentz has been almost a season-long task.

It appeared Jordan Nelson was the obvious choice until he suffered an injury in early March and didn’t return until March 31. Nelson has scored two points in six games since returning from the injury.

Then it became an open competition which has seen the likes of Stanislav Dzakhov, Taylor Fleming and Pavel Zykov all emerge as viable options. Marks has said he’s seen good and bad things from everyone going for the final spot.

He and his staff will review those things Sunday afternoon leading into Game 1 against Sioux City at 7:05 p.m. on Monday.

“Guys have had plenty of opportunities to show,” Marks said. “I was really disappointed in some performances (in the Force’s 2-1 loss to Lincoln on Saturday.)

Marks said it comes down to who is willing to “get their nose dirty” and work for a spot.

It sounds like Goff would be up for the challenge.

Goff has played, either at forward or defense, in four of the team’s last five games. He was starting to show his development prior to being suspended in March by the USHL for an incident involving a racial epithet against a Des Moines Buccaneers player.

Goff, a former Minnesota state track champion, analyzed his season by saying it has been an “emotional roller coaster.”

He recalled playing in the first 10 games of the season until he was getting scratched in favor of other players. Goff said the adversity he’s faced this season has made him a better player and a better person who wants to contribute to the team.

Goff proved it last weekend when he had a 2-on-1, empty-net chance that he gave up so Zykov could score his first USHL goal. Marks said immediately after the game he was extremely pleased and proud of Goff for how selfless he was.

Maybe this time around, its Marks who throws Goff a line.

“I think coming back, being out for six games, I hopped back in,” Goff said. “Any player that sits out plays hungry. I am hungry for ice time, hungry for more and more opportunities and they’ve given me that. I am showing that I can be a continuous guy to put in every night and hopefully they see that and I can contribute come playoffs.”

Blue Train…

Because gearing up for a playoff run isn’t enough.

Tuning up for the playoffs has been a focal point at Fargo Force practices lately. Practices have also been used as a bit of a tryout camp for players the Force either have on their affiliates list or they are looking at drafting in the upcoming USHL drafts.

“We’ve had guys who’ve been are on Spring Break at school and they’ll fly or drive out for a few days,” said Force assistant and chief scout Jesse Davis.

Quite a few players have practiced with the Force with the most notable being former Duluth East forward Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) and former St. Thomas Academy defenseman Eric Schurhamer (Maine). Both Toninato and Schurhamer were finalists for the state’s Mr. Hockey award.

Toninato, who is on the Force’s affiliate list, has already played a few games with the team and will play again this weekend, Davis said.

As for Schurhamer, he’s in a bit of a different situation. He’s a two-time Minnesota state champion with a college commitment who just doesn’t have a place to play junior hockey for next season.

“I just want to find a home where I can play and find coaches that will develop me so I can go on to the next level,” said Schurhamer, who also played high school hockey with Force defenseman Taylor Fleming. “I just want to out there and prove myself too.”

Schurhamer admitted playing against stronger and faster competition is certainly a change compared to what he’s used to seeing.

He’s not the only one. Many of the players the Force have had at practice have played high school hockey or midget hockey, which usually doesn’t feature the size and speed seen in junior hockey.

“Going into it people you know are a committed kid,” Schurhamer said. “It could put you up in the ranks a little bit higher above other kids. You are still really driven to get to the next level and for me, it’s like having a target on my back so I strive to be better in tryouts.”

Schurhamer said he had a tryout with the Chicago Steel but his only other USHL tryout, for now, has been with the Force.

He added he’d like to play in Fargo given how close it is to where his family lives in the Twin Cities.

Something says he might not be the only one. The team’s practice on Thursday featured quite a few players from Minnesota including Blaine forward Tyler Cline and Totino-Grace’s Kai Barber.

If Cline were to come to Fargo, he’d be the latest extension in what has become a mini-pipeline between the Force and the Bengals. Current Force players Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State) and Taylor Richart played at Blaine where Richart’s dad is an assistant coach. Cline, a sophomore, scored 33 points in 25 games for Blaine last season.

As for Barber, he was a member of a Totino-Grace team which fell to Schurhamer and St. Thomas Academy by a goal in the section finals.The 5-10, 195-pound Barber played varsity as a sophomore last season with five points in 22 games.

Should Barber get drafted and come to the team, he’d add to a list that could have some famous family members.

Barber, Davis said, is the nephew of former NFL running back and Minnesota star Marion Barber. Barber did play football at Totino-Grace this season rushing 32 times for 162 yards in two touchdowns over six regular season games while catching 13 passes for 110 yards and one touchdown.

Then there is Toninato – the godson of NHL Hall of Famer Brett Hull, who played hockey with Toninato’s father at Minnesota-Duluth.

“We’re happy with the guys we’ve had here at camp,” Davis said. “In practice when we run our power play and penalty kill, our guys know what to expect against each other. These guys don’t so it’s good to have that this late in the year.”

El Burrito de Belén…

When Force forward Bryn Chyzyk said he was going to accept food, he wasn’t joking.

Chyzyk (North Dakota) drafted teammate Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) on Tuesday for the team’s upcoming skills competition on Sunday. The draft was held after practice and the teams where chosen by Chyzyk and Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth).

Chyzyk chose Hargrove with his second pick and then shipped him to Farley’s team in exchange for Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) and a Qdoba burrito. Yep. You read that right. Hargrove was traded for a burrito.

“You know, me and Farley have some creative minds,” Chyzyk said about the trade. “We tossed it around in our heads and I decided to pull the trigger.”

Don’t worry. Chyzyk will not have to worry about trading a side order of nachos at a later date or anything like that.

He and Farley, who are close friends, actually know what one another order from Qdoba so Chyzyk knows what to expect.

Chyzyk, who was tongue-in-cheek during most of the interview, did joke about explaining to Hargrove why he did trade him.

“We shook his hand and told him we hope for the best,” Chyzyk said. “We told him there were no hard feelings. Now let’s see if he gives me the puck on Friday.”

Trading Hargrove, who is from Texas, for a burrito was only part of the story of the draft. Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner said Corrin showed up to the draft wearing sweat paints but had a suit jacket on treating it as if this was an actual draft.

Baumgartner and Chyzyk both said Corrin showed up stating how he was going to be the No. 1 pick, or at least a first-rounder. Corrin was taken second by Farley before being traded for Hargrove and the burrito.

“Oh, he thought he was going first and that’s because he’s the oldest guy on the team,” Chyzyk said. “He’s starting to lose his hair and he needs a wheelchair. The old guy did look good today.”

He then joked about how he didn’t know if Corrin was worth a burrito but he’ll find out on Sunday.

The first overall pick of the draft belonged to Farley and he selected first-year forward Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth), who has scored 22 points this season and is fourth on the team in points while defenseman Taylor Richart was the draft’s second overall pick.

Chyzyk said he was pleased with how the draft went and said Nate Arentz, who he drafted, could be the skills challenge sleeper to watch.

“He’s an underrated guy on the team,” said Chyzyk, who actually took Arentz with his third pick. “I feel like he’s going to wipe up in the fastest skater competition just from looking at the things he’s done in practice.”

Though there is one thing to note about the draft.

Defensemen Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) and Justin Wade (Notre Dame) were the last two players taken in the draft.

Isn’t it kind of weird that the two guys who could get taken in this summer’s NHL Draft were chosen last?

“It is a little bit of a coincidence I would say,” Chyzyk said. “They are a couple of defensive-minded guys in an offensive game but I am glad we got Cooper in the last round. I think he could win the hardest shot competition.”

Below are a list of the teams:

Team Chyzyk: Chyzyk, Richart, Arentz, Reed Peters, Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), Taylor Fleming, Nick Stoskopf, David Mead, Pavel Zykov, Cooper.

Team Farley: Farley, Hargrove, Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), Zane Gothberg (North Dakota), Dave Gust, Neal Goff, Jordan Nelson, Dominic Racobaldo, Stanislav Dzakhov, Wade.

Stitches…

It might have been a great night for the Fargo Force and Nate Arentz, but it was certainly a painful one for Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota).

Thanks to Dominic Racobaldo’s Twitter, here’s a photo of Chyzyk following the 2-1 win on Saturday at Cedar Rapids. It’s not known what exactly happened for Chyzyk to get some low-budget botox but at least it gives him a bit of a different look.

Face-altering injuries aside, here’s a look at who was vital in the Force’s victory and what the team did to put themselves in a position to win.

-Nate Arentz, forward: He found an impressive way to break a seven-game pointless streak by scoring the game-winning goal midway through the second period. It now means Arentz has 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 37 games this season. Believe it or not, this was actually Arentz’s third game-winning goal this season. He’s now tied for second on the team in game-winning goals. Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) leads the team with five goals. Arentz, despite his pointless streak, has been looking better this season. He’s finding ways to get to the net whether it be on a breakaway or a 2-on-1, he’s just had trouble finishing shots. That certainly wasn’t the case tonight.

-Taylor Fleming, forward: Here’s another gut who broke a streak – a five gamer – by scoring the opening salvo of the game. Fleming’s role has changed multiple times this year going from defenseman to third line forward to at one point filling in on the top line for Farley when he first went down.

-Zane Gothberg, goaltender (North Dakota): Force backup goaltender Reed Peters tweeted before the game Gothberg was sleeping instead of watching “Titanic” for their pre-game movie. Not watching Leo DeCaprio drown maybe helped keep the Force afloat with Gothberg making 22 saves and not facing more than eight shots in any one period. It was a bounce back performance for Gothberg, who gave up four straight goals in Friday’s 4-1 loss to Waterloo. Gothberg’s stellar season continues. His 2.43 GAA is third in the league. His 17 wins are tied for fourth and his .913 save percentage is fourth. Have we mentioned how his three shutouts this season have tied a franchise record?

-The Penalty Kill: This unit went 6-for-6 and as a whole this weekend, went 12-for-13 for a 92 percent success rate. Overall, the season percentage is at 85.7 percent and that is the second-best in the league with Dubuque being No. 1 overall. It might be overlooked, but the penalty kill is one of the best things the Force have had going all season long. Don’t sleep on the power play unit either. It might have been silent on Saturday, but it is still the fourth-best unit in the league.

Push It…

Think Gabe Guertler is the fastest skater on the Fargo Force or do you believe Brian Cooper has the hardest shot?

We’re about to find out.

The Force announced this morning they will be hosting a skills competition on Sunday, March 4 at 4 p.m. The event is free to the public and will pit Force players against each other to see who is the fastest skater, most accurate shooter, most skilled player among other tests.

Players will be split into two teams, a blue team and a white team, and the team is asking fans to choose captains for both squads via Twitter, Facebook and the Force’s official website. Once captains are selected there will be a mock draft to choose players for each side.

It is the first time the Force in their four-year history will be hosting a skills competition.

Here’s a list of the categories and the players who’ll be participating:

Fastest Skater: Nate Arentz, Alex Iafallo, Taylor Fleming, Neal Goff & Gabe Guertler (Minnesota)

Accuracy: Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), Jordan Nelson, Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota), Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) & Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth)

Skills Course: Dave Gust, Stanislav Dzakhov, Pavel Zykov, Taylor Richart & Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth)

Goalie Competition (select shooters to be named later): Zane Gothberg (North Dakota) & Reed Peters

Hardest Shot: Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), Dominic Racobaldo, David Mead, Nick Stoskopf & Justin Wade (Notre Dame)

Breakaway Challenge: Farley, Guertler, Hargrove, Cooper & Chyzyk

Under The Weather…

From Austin Farley’s (Minnesota-Duluth) Twitter account to Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner, one thing is clear.

Farley isn’t playing this weekend and it could be a while before he plays for the Fargo Force any time soon. Farley tweeted Thursday how he was on crutches and was going to be walking around in a boot.

Baumgartner confirmed Farley’s tweet by saying he won’t be in action against Tri-City and a timetable for his return is unknown.

The Force said last week Farley was out with what was classified as a “lower-body injury” but he was obviously limping around the locker room for the last week. He spent Tuesday’s practice rehabbing while the rest of the team was on the ice.

Missing Farley, who leads the team with 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists), could potentially be a crippling blow to the Force, which currently sit in a tie for third place with Waterloo in the Western Conference heading into this weekend.

Farley has been the Force’s most dominant player following an early season struggle when the team was mired in a lengthy losing streak before reeling off nine in a row.

He was scoring and grabbing points at a torrid pace and at one point was four points off the league lead in points and currently sits in a tie for third two points behind Indiana’s Daniil Tarasov and 10 points behind what appears to be eventual scoring champ in Lincoln’s Kevin Roy (Brown).

Farley was also on pace to shatter the Force’s single-season scoring record for most goals and points in a season. He also had a chance at becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in franchise history. It appears his shot at history could take a blow depending on how long he will be out.

The Force (20-15-4) went 1-1 last weekend without Farley in the line-up and have received contributions from just about every line to fill the void. Forward Jordan Nelson scored two goals in the team’s 4-3 overtime loss to Omaha while Stanislav Dzakhov scored the game-winning goal with three seconds left in a 3-2 win over Sioux Falls.

Defenseman-turned-forward Taylor Fleming filled for Farley on a line with Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota) and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) going pointless and only picking up two shots between both games.

Comfortable…

Anytime a team is missing its leading scorer there’s always going to be the need for someone to step up.

Insert Jordan Nelson. Nelson filled the gap left by Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) by scoring two goals – including a shorthanded, go-ahead goal – in the Force’s 4-3 loss to the Omaha Lancers on Friday.

“I think not having our top scorer, we knew people had to step up,” Nelson said. “Quite a few guys felt they needed to step up. I think it worked out. (Taylor) Fleming, who filled in for Farley on that line, had a good game. We had a few good opportunities but they were not going our way.”

Farley, the team’s leading scorer, missed the game with a lower-body injury. The USHL’s third-leading scorer is day-to-day, the team said last night.

Nelson, 19, had two impressive looking goals. His first came from a feed by Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) where he sliced through the Omaha zone and fired a laser past goaltender Alex Lyon (Yale).

Though his second one, might have been a bit better.

Fargo was shorthanded yet Nelson managed to Force a turnover and with a defenseman on him like a cape, he managed to wrap around the net beating Lyon and giving the Force a 3-2 lead.

“It felt good to finally score again,” Nelson said. “I was able to get some of the weight off my shoulders.”

Nelson’s had a bit of a mixed year. He’s played in all of the team’s 38 games this season but has been in a role most including Nelson didn’t see coming by being a third-line player who can eat up minutes and provide an offensive spark when needed.

It’s different for Nelson, who entered the season with quite a few expectations given his profile. He was a North Dakota Mr. Hockey two seasons ago leading the state in scoring and Williston to a third place finish at the North Dakota State Hockey Tournament.

Nelson, who is the sixth North Dakota born player in franchise history, played last season in Alexandria (NAHL) where he scored 41 points (27 goals, 14 assists) in a third line role. He admitted there are some stark differences between last season and this year. The biggest difference, he said, being speed because the USHL is faster.

“There’s a lot more skill in this league,” said Nelson, who has four goals and six assists this season. “There are guys who are NHL Draft Picks and there are a lot better players. Everyone is stronger in this league and it goes at a much quicker pace.”

Nelson said it has taken him time to get adjusted to the league and last night was an example.

He cited the two goals as a motivating tool but said his attitude heading into the game changed.

Nelson said he would often worry about making a mistake and what the consequences could be if he did mess up. It just so happened before last night’s game, which came against the top team in the West and without the team’s leading scorer, he decided against being cautionary.

“It worked,” Nelson said. “I got a few lucky bounces and everything just seemed to go my way but we didn’t come out the way I would have wanted. A win would have been nice.”