Know Your Bobcat – Aaron Nelson
Throughout the months of August and September, BismarckBobcats.com will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Our first installment covers third-year returning goalie Aaron Nelson.
Name: Aaron Nelson
Hometown: Bismarck, ND
2012-13 Team: Bismarck Bobcats
2012-13 Stats: 40 GP, 24-7-6, 5 shutouts, 978 saves, 1.88 GAA, .931 SV%
Currently Reading: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Favorite TV Show: Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead
Highlight of 2012-13: “Winning the Central Division championship at home and being able to share that moment with our great fans.”
Fueling the Fire
The way that the 2013 Robertson Cup Tournament ended for the Bismarck Bobcats is certainly fresh in the minds of all 23 players on the team’s playoff roster: eliminated on tiebreakers following the Wenatchee Wild’s 7-0 rout of the Amarillo Bulls in the early game on Day Three, hours before the Cats would even have a chance to play their final contest of pool play.
Amarillo would turn around and blank Wenatchee 5-0 for the title the next day.
Despite knowing their fate before they even took the ice for what would be their final game of the season, the Bobcats still went out and held off the Jamestown Ironmen for a 4-3 victory that Sunday in north Texas.
“Nobody quit. Everyone played with a lot of pride,” credited goalie Aaron Nelson, who played half of the final game but did not factor into the decision. “It showed exactly what kind of guys we had on that team.”
While many players could be bitter, Nelson looks back at that weekend as impetus for the 2013-14 campaign.
“It doesn’t do anybody any good to sit there and be mad about [the situation],” explained Nelson, whose 1.88 GAA was second league-wide last season, as were his five shutouts. “It was a bad deal, and we younger guys felt the worst for our 1992 [birth year] guys. They had no more shots.
“So for me, and a lot of the other guys who are back from last year, we’re playing for them: the guys who won’t get another chance.”
Nelson’s taking inspiration from the 2013 national tournament isn’t exactly a new thing. While most of his teammates couldn’t bear to see it, the Century High product watched the entire title game, at one point Tweeting a picture with a caption “Should be enough motivation for next year.”
For any fan of West Region high school hockey in North Dakota, a portion of the Bobcats’ 2013 playoff roster read like a who’s-who of the 2008-09 Century High Patriots roster: Nelson, Dan Kovar, Seth Blair.
The former two, Nelson and Kovar, had already played together on the 2011-12 installment of the Bobcats, where Kovar helped his former prep teammate acclimate to the junior game.
“Playing with Dan my first year really helped, starting from Day One,” noted Nelson, who made the opening-day roster for the Cats out of Main Camp in 2011. “He showed me the ropes right away with ‘Hell Week’ and having him around gave me a good level of comfort to get to know guys like [goalie tandem partner] Tommy Burke.”
Blair was added at the 2012-13 roster deadline in February.
Mix in another former Patriot in tender signee Alec Rauhauser along with Bismarck High products like Tony German and Tommy Malkmus, and there is a strong local flavor to the training camp roster that Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie has constructed.
“All the CHS and BHS guys have played against each other for a long time, but it’s pretty cool now because we are all training together down at Healthways in preparation for ‘Hell Week,’” the veteran netminder detailed. “We’re all working together toward the same goal.”
Splitting time in his formative years between Bismarck and southern California, Nelson grew up an Anaheim Ducks fan. In fact, he credits Jean-Sebastian Giguere’s memorable Conn Smythe run in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the reason he became a goaltender in the first place.
But the 5’9” Nelson doesn’t exactly take cues from his boyhood idol, who stands four inches taller at 6’1”.
“We couldn’t be any more different, style-wise,” accepted Nelson. “He’s got size and great positioning while I have to challenge further and react fast.
“Actually, there aren’t too many shorter goalies for me to style myself after who have made it to the highest levels in the modern age of the NHL.”
Instead, the Bismarck native kept his inspiration a little closer to home.
“My freshman year at Century, I loved watching Matt Grogan play right here with the Bobcats,” remarked Nelson. “Matt’s a shorter goalie [5’10”] who really did well here and beyond.”
The 1988 birth year Grogan won 20 games in two seasons with the Bobcats and is top five all-time for GAA (2.52) and SV% (.918). He would turn heads as a senior at the University of Connecticut, ranking fifth in all of Division I with a .937 SV% and eighth national with a GAA of 1.93 while leading the Huskies to a #4 seed in the Atlantic Hockey tournament.
Another 5’10” goalie with local connections has had a tremendous impact on Nelson as well: his current head coach Layne Sedevie.
“Working with [Sedevie] has been huge for me and my career,” recounted Nelson. “He’s been in my shoes almost exactly; he’s been there and done it. His coaching and advice have really set me up to succeed.”
The respect is mutual.
“’Nelly’ is a stud out there, he really is,” beamed Sedevie, who has coached the last four Bobcat goalies to go D-I (Ryan Faragher, St. Cloud State; Ryan Massa, Nebraska-Omaha; Jake Williams, Mercyhurst; Tommy Burke, Bowling Green). “Not only is he talented but he is so open to learning. Often succeeding at this level means being willing to learn new things and unlearn old things that may be holding you back and Aaron has done both very well.
“By the time this season is over, he could go down as the all-time greatest goalie in Bobcat history.”
As of now, Nelson sits third all-time in franchise wins (37), second in GAA (2.05) and second in SV% (.925). But none of those are the number he’s really after.
“The number I care about most is two,” stated Nelson, directly. “I want this team’s second Robertson Cup.”
Stay tuned to BismarckBobcats.com over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week, we will also feature Dan Kovar, Filip Starzynski, Seth Blair, Ryan Callahan and Stanislav Dzakhov.