TOLEDO — Chris Nell enhanced his already impressive résumé Friday night.
The Bowling Green junior became Bowling Green’s leader in career shutouts with his team’s 3-0 victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Nell stopped 17 shots for the eighth shutout of his career.
The 6-foot-3, 184-pounder entered the season in a three-way tie for the career lead, sharing the record with Andrew Hammond (2010-13) and Tyler Masters (1999-03). Four other goalies had four shutouts each.
Nell’s shutout was his first since March 5 last season, a 5-0 blanking at Alabama-Huntsville in BG’s regular-season finale.
“It’s really humbling,” said Nell, who also is BG’s all-time leader in goals-against average (2.16) and save percentage (.919).“There’s a lot of good goalies on that list who came before me. It’s really humbling, and I couldn’t do it without the guys in front of me.”
Nell was rarely tested in the Huntington Center, but played well when called upon with a handful of quality stops. Thirteen of his saves came during the final two periods, four coming against the RIT power play in the second period.
RIT had the power play with a chance to cut into BG’s 2-0 lead. One of the saves was on a deflection with heavy traffic in front of the net. The Tigers are averaging 3.21 goals and 34.3 shots per game this season, and scoring at 22.4 percent on the power play. RIT’s power play was 0 of 2 against BG.
“Chris Nell did what Chris Nell does when he’s on top of his game,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “He made big saves.”
Nell’s performance was his latest solid effort following a difficult start to the season. He has a 9-5-1 record in his last 15 games, posting a 2.04 goals-against and a .913 save percentage in that span.
The Green Bay, Wisconsin native was coming off a superb sophomore season when he was a first-team All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association honoree. Nell set BG’s single-season records last winter with a 1.31 goals-against and a .930 save percentage. He ranked ninth nationally in goals-against and 10th in save percentage.
But, Nell’s dad died unexpectedly Sept. 12. Rick Nell’s smiling face was a familiar presence at his son’s games, both home and away. When Friday’s game ended, Nell immediately looked up and gestured toward the rafters.
“He’s gone through some difficult times,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “He’s an outstanding goalie. He had to get through a very difficult situation at the start of the year, and he’ll get himself back on track. He was getting himself back on track just prior to the break. He’s a great kid and we’re happy for him (setting the record).”
Although Nell was sharp, the Falcons also played well in front of him. BG held a 53-36 edge in total shots attempted. The Falcons defended well and generated sustained pressure in the offensive zone. They had the three goals on 24 shots on goal. RIT missed the net 13 times and hit the post once, while the Falcons blocked five shots.
“We did a really good defending through the neutral zone, in (the defensive) zone, too,” said Nell, who had four shutouts last season to set BG’s single-season record. “We did a good job of keeping them to the outside.”
Nell has played in 18 games this season, posting a 7-8-2 record along with a 2.54 goals-against and an .892 save percentage.
“It’s always a little tougher to find a way to stay engaged through a game you’re not getting as many shots,” Nell said. “I felt really comfortable. It helps when the shots are coming from the outside.”
The Falcons were playing their first time since they played at Alaska (Fairbanks) Dec. 16-17 . They returned to BG Monday and began practicing for the RIT game Tuesday morning.
“You’re more rejuvenated to play a game,” Nell said. “It’s really nice to take a break. But once you get back from break and have some tough practices, you’re ready to play someone in a different jersey.”