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Aaron Nelson following coach’s footsteps in Bismarck

12/13/2013, 4:30pm MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to

Layne Sedevie can relate to the challenges faced by one of his key players in Sedevie's three seasons as Bismarck Bobcats coach and general manager.

Aaron Nelson is following a path that Sedevie knows well.

About a decade ago, Sedevie was a somewhat undersized goalie from Bismarck, playing high-level junior hockey, trying to gain the attention.

He eventually went on from the United States Hockey League to play three-plus seasons at Bemidji State University before playing in two minor professional leagues. He has since launched what is quickly becoming a successful coaching career with two consecutive North American Hockey League Central Division titles and Robertson Cup Finals appearances.

Now Nelson, a 5-foot-9, hometown goalie, is hoping to follow a similar path through the ranks of junior and college hockey. Nelson has been a big part of Sedevie’s success in Bismarck, racking up impressive numbers over all three of Sedevie’s seasons running the Bobcats. The coach is hopeful that the latest streak will help Nelson take the final step in establishing himself as a Division I prospect.

“He just needs an opportunity,” Sedevie said. “I really feel like he can be a Division I goaltender and not just a back-up. I feel like he can be an All-American goaltender.

“He’s got all the tools. I really feel like he can have a lot of success at the next level.”

Nelson understands that part of the proof comes in consistently showing he can succeed at his current level in the only Tier II junior hockey league in the United States.

A current five-game winning streak and his status as the reigning NAHL Central Division Player of Week are just the latest accomplishments for Nelson.

“As long as we have team success, guys are going to get looks,” Nelson said. “I think that’s the biggest part: Guys understanding that without team success, we’re not going to get looks that we could. I think guys are understanding that now in this recent stretch.”

The Bobcats have moved to within three points of the first-place Austin Bruins in pursuit of their fifth straight Central Division title.

Nelson — and Sedevie — have been a big part of the most recent two.

After posting a 2.40 goals-against average in 20 games as an NAHL rookie, Nelson was second in the league last year with a 1.88 GAA last season, tied for second with five shutouts and fourth with a .931 save percentage. He has also proved valuable in the postseason, going 12-4 with a 2.25 GAA over that time.

Sedevie points to the playoff performances and three years of established success when explaining why he thinks Nelson has a promising future.

Nelson is thankful for the help he has received from direct input from a head coach who understands the goalie’s job.

“He kind of just understands what shoes I’m in,” Nelson said. “We’re both small. He understands my game. That definitely helps.

“He works with me before practice and after practice.”

Sedevie also knows the mindset of a goalie.

“I think that’s something I can offer as a head coach,” he said. “I feel like you try to understand systems and everything else you’re doing as a coach, but it is the one position that I can really relate to.

“In certain situations, I feel for a goaltender it’s the mental stuff. To be able to go through situations and talk to somebody, it’s something I hope I can provide for my goaltenders.”

On the technical side of the game, Sedevie says Nelson plays his angles well, uses his quickness and has put in the work to become strong at rebound control.

“I worked on it a lot as a kid, just drills in practice,” Nelson said of his positioning. “And a lot of it is battling. I’m not going to stop shots just by being big.

“Being in position, first and foremost, is important because I’m smaller. I have to take away as much of the net as I can.”

Nelson has stopped 148 of 155 shots during his five-game winning streak, putting up a 1.38 GAA and .955 save percentage. The team has gone from losing five of six to winning seven of its last eight.

The success has Nelson thinking big. He would not only like to see the Bobcats climb to the top of the Central Division, he says the team should be aiming to secure the best record in order to host the Robertson Cup finals that also serve as the USA Hockey Tier II National Championships.

“We’re 11-0-1 at home this year so I think securing home ice for playoffs would be two thumbs up,” Nelson said. “Every point counts.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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