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Year of the Ram: An eye to the future

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

It’s been awhile since the Roseau Rams have given up a goal. After an 8-0 shellacking of the Bemidji Lumberjacks on the road, the Rams completed a series sweep of the Moorhead Spuds, downing their old rival 4-0 in the friendly confines of Memorial Arena.

Adam Knochenmus had a hat trick and Kyle Bodell notched his first of the year versus Bemidji, while captain Dustin Moser pulled off three goals against Moorhead.

With two assists in each of those games, senior right-winger Ben Nelson continued his torrid scoring pace. Through 16 games, Nelson had tallied 11 goals and 37 points.

“I just try to make good plays on the breakout,” Nelson said. “Every shift has an impact on the game.”

Coach Scott Oliver compares Nelson to former NHL agitator Ken Linseman, who ended his career just shy of a point-per-game pace.

“Ben is a fierce competitor,” Oliver said. “He kind of gets in the heads of his opponents. I would hate to play against him.”

At 5-foot-9 and around 150 pounds, Nelson has to have that killer instinct, but he’s chosen his role models well. His favorite NHLer is the diminutive, but deadly, Brian Gionta and whenever he needs advice he turns to a friend of his father by the name of Aaron Broten.

“He tells me to always keep my feet moving, because I’m not the biggest guy,” Nelson said of the ex-New Jersey Devil. “He’s a wise guy and he made a living being a not-so-big guy in the NHL.”

In fact, if his father hadn’t listened to Broten, Nelson may never have even played for the Rams.

The elder Nelson was raising his family outside of St. Paul, Minn., but had a cabin around Roseau. Broten was his neighbor and upon learning of Ben’s skills, alerted Nelson to the fact Roseau had a pretty good crop of kids coming up that Ben could fit in with.

After getting over the mild culture shock of moving from big city St. Paul to small town Roseau – where there’s one Subway restaurant and one Dairy Queen, but the DQ is open only half the year – Nelson settled in to his little piece of hockey heaven.

“It’s every kid’s dream to live in Roseau,” he said. “All they want you to do here is go to school and play hockey.”

And that’s exactly what Nelson hopes to do once high school is finished, though he likely won’t be going to a Division I NCAA school right away. The right winger was taken in the 2006 United States League futures draft by the Lincoln Stars, but the Stars released his rights last summer. USHL teams can only protect a certain number of prospects and the fact Nelson was going to play in Roseau this year certainly didn’t help.

“No doubt he’s a great player, he can take over a shift with his speed,” said Stars coach Jim McGroarty. “We just didn’t have any room for him.”

Nelson will now be eligible for the USHL entry draft in May and McGroarty said it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a team that loses a player from the futures draft re-selects him in the entry draft.

“It’s kind of confusing,” Nelson said.

Another Ram drawing attention right now is defenseman Aaron Ness. After being ranked No. 35 among North American skaters in the NHL’s mid-term draft ranking, Ness’s stock shot up on other scouting rankings. The International Scouting Service didn’t even have Ness in its top 100 in December, but he’s up to No. 24 in the January rankings, ahead of many big-name Canadian juniors.

“We’re seeing more scouts at our games,” Oliver said.

The Hockey News will be following the Roseau Rams high school hockey team every week, chronicling its journey on the road back to the state championship and providing an inside look at what its like to be a teenager on one of the most fabled varsity teams in America.

Click HERE to read previous Year of the Ram stories.

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