Article reprinted courtesy of Fargo Forum and reporter Eric Peterson. Picture courtesy of Fargo Forum photographer Dave Samson.
Moorhead--- A couple summers ago, Concordia senior Jess Nelson worked road construction and one of her jobs was to operate a crack router that weighed hundreds of pounds.
Nelson preferred doing that labor-intensive task instead of standing around and directing traffic, even though she often worked 17-hour days.
"The thing I hated the most was holding the stop sign," Nelson said. "I think you could fall asleep standing up doing that. I would rather just be moving and doing something."
Cobbers senior Chelsey Petrich said that summer job sums up her women's hockey teammate.
"She's not afraid to work hard," said Petrich, also one of Nelson's roommates. "She's not afraid to do the dirty work to get stuff done."
Petrich thinks that strong work ethic is one reason Nelson has excelled in her final season with the Cobbers. Nelson leads the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with 12 goals heading into the weekend.
Concordia (10-4-1, 7-1 MIAC) hosts Augsburg (11-4, 7-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, at the Moorhead Sports Center with first place in the MIAC at stake. Game 2 of the weekend series is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Moorhead Sports Center.
Nelson had nine goals entering her senior season and has more than doubled her career total through 15 games. She has 21 career goals with the Cobbers.
"I think she's comfortable," Concordia head coach Jason Gregoire said. "She's got a great shot. I just don't think she ever really fully trusted it. She got off to a good start so that helped with her confidence."
Nelson, from Waukesha, Wis., worked her road construction job for three months that summer in Wisconsin. Before each work day, Nelson and her co-workers would usually load a couple pallets of tar blocks, which weighed around 35 pounds each, Nelson said. Working road construction ended up being her offseason workouts for hockey that summer.
"Definitely hard work, but I think I learned a lot," she said.
While Nelson doesn't shy away from hard work, she also loves to rock out in her free time. Nelson and her roommates often play the interactive music video game "Rock Band." They usually play Saturday nights after hockey games.
Nelson likes to be the drummer and "I Miss The Misery" by Halestorm is one of her favorite songs to perform.
"We've been known to go pretty hard at Rock Band at our house," Nelson said with smile.
"We have a lot of fun rocking out," Petrich added.
Curiosity is how Nelson got her start in hockey. When she was 5 years old, she went to the rink with friends and her brother, David, who is one year older, for skating lessons. On the other end of the ice sheet, kids were playing hockey.
"Maybe 10 minutes into the skate we asked if we could do that because it looked a lot cooler," Jess said. "That's how I got into hockey."
Nelson wears jersey No. 4 for the Cobbers, a number she has worn since around 6 years old. She wears the number because her favorite NHL team growing up was the Tampa Bay Lightning and her favorite player was Vincent Lecavalier, who retired last summer from the NHL. Since Nelson is a Green Bay Packers football fan, most theorize she wears No. 4 because of former Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
Nelson was a fan of Lecavalier for many of the same reasons she is appreciated by her Concordia coaches and teammates.
"He's a hard worker," Nelson said. "He brought a lot of energy on the ice. I've lucked out being able to pick that number up."