After he appeared in only four games during the 2010-11 season, Taylor Nelson was a question mark in goal for Ferris State, and few outside of Big Rapids, Mich., may have known how the senior would fare this season.
After 25-save effort against the Denver Pioneers in Friday’s Midwest Regional semifinal, Nelson has the Bulldogs in a position to make their first trip to the Frozen Four.
“There were a number of times the puck was around our crease where I thought [Nelson] battled very hard,” Bulldogs coach Bob Daniels said. “I thought Taylor did a terrific job of not only making the first save, but eliminating many rebound opportunities.”
Over the course of night, Nelson became more and more important the longer the game went on. Stopping eight pucks in the first period, Nelson appeared to settle into a groove that proved important in the second period as the Pioneers turned up the heat.
Nelson was especially adept at shutting down Pioneers sophomore forward Jason Zucker, stopping him three times in the first period, twice more in the second, and twice in the third, including one save with just over a minute remaining.
Nelson was quick to point out his teammates have been a huge part of his success throughout the season, not just against the Pioneers.
“We have done a great job all season long of getting into shot lanes,” said Nelson. “Every guy on the team is willing to put their body on the line and sacrifice.”
After his teammates earned him a 2-0 lead, Nelson’s shutout bid was thwarted by a nifty move from Pioneers co-captain Drew Shore in the third period. From that moment on, Nelson closed the door on any thought of a comeback by the Pioneers similar to the one they used to beat Western Michigan in the 2011 Midwest Regional semifinal.
Redemption may have been the unspoken theme for the Bulldogs on Friday, as Nelson and his teammates were playing for the first time since March 11, when they lost 4-3 in overtime to last-place Bowling Green in the second round of the CCHA playoffs.
“We had to put that in the past,” said Nelson. “We were given the opportunity for a tournament berth. … We put [the loss] in the past.”
Nelson has 19 wins on the season. He managed only 14 wins combined over his first three seasons. There is no doubt this win will be among his proudest moments as a Bulldogs player, as he helped the team advance to the Midwest Regional championship game on Saturday night.