Hamline University’s Nelson credits experience earned with Riverkings
By Joshua Boyd
USPHL – A Hamline University athlete is credited his experience with the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings for his success in college hockey.
Sam Nelson knows that his college hockey career will end soon. You’d be hard-pressed to find a frown on the face of the Hamline senior goaltender, however. He’s done exactly what he has set out to do.
“I think it is super cool that I was allowed to have this opportunity for a college hockey career,” said Nelson, an Eau Claire native, who played for the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings in the USPHL just before starting his college hockey career.
“When you’re a kid, you set your mind to playing college hockey, and now that I’m here, it is very awesome. I have really enjoyed it,” Nelson added. “It brings challenges and obstacles, but you learn to adapt, both as a person and as an athlete at the same time.”
Although Nelson is a senior, he is in just his second season at Hamline, located in St. Paul, MN. Playing in 14 of Hamline’s 21 games through early February this season, the former Riverking is the clear-cut No. 1 at Hamline, an NCAA Division 3 team founded in 2001.
“I played at Concordia College (in Moorhead, MN) for two years, and prior to that, I played for Coach Marty Quarters in Wisconsin Rapids,” said Nelson. “Coach Quarters has a lot of experience at the higher levels of the game. One of the things he helped me out with was being a professional. Whether it’s at the rink, in the locker room, at your billet house, or in the real world, the No. 1 priority is to make sure you’re a man and a professional about everything.
“That is something you can take outside of hockey and has helped me grow not only as a hockey player, but as a person.”
This season hasn’t been easy for Nelson and Hamline, which has struggled. However, Nelson has been a mainstay in net because he has kept his save percentage above .900 all season. He regularly sees (in eight of his 14 games) more than 30 shots per game. On two occasions, he had to turn away 40 or more and those instances resulted in a win and a tie.
“I feel like I’ve had a pretty good year so far. We had a tough run in the first half, but the next few games will determine what the future of our season,” said Nelson.
Keeping his team in games both physically and mentally was a key lesson learned during his time with the Riverkings.
“When I first got to Wisconsin Rapids, I was a little out of control, playing the puck outside the net a lot,” said Nelson. “Coach Quarters taught me to play within myself, control my emotions, so I’m not doing the flashy things but rather doing what is needed to help the team. Coach Quarters had a great team mentality.”