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Athlete of the Week: Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Taylor Nelson

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CLOQUET, MN- Hockey is all about getting hot at the right time. But what if you haven't lost a game in over two months?

That's exactly what's happened to the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girl's hockey team who have won 15 straight games.

Senior Taylor Nelson is having a career year to lead the Lumberjacks. As she is ranked in the top 10 for goals scored in the state of Minnesota.

She says it's all team effort that has propelled her this season.

"The line I work with, we work very well together. We drive to the net and make stuff happen. I think we communicate really well too," said Nelson.

Even more of a headache for opposing coaches is Nelson's teammate and linemate Kiana Bender. Bender is tied with Nelson with 24 goals on the season.

"They're best friends on and off the ice. But the thing I love the most about them is, on the ice, it's all business. They're each other's biggest competitor, they show up and they're ready to compete," said Head Coach Courtney Olin.

According to Bender, it took time to develop what they have on the ice. But it's only benefited their play year after year.

"A lot of high schools don't have players that have been playing together for so long. It's a gift that Taylor and I have been playing for five years plus playing in squirts and with boys. We've just connected really well through the years, I think it's really paid off," said Bender.

The duo may have similar stats on the ice, but their college athletic careers will have different paths. Bender will play softball at UMD while Nelson will play hockey for Bemidji State.

Nelson says the big thing for her in the recruiting process was similarities to home.

"I'm from Carlton, a small town, there's a lake nearby. Some of the commits that are going there I've played with through elite league. I just feel like it's a good atmosphere," said Nelson.

Making a division 1 commitment hasn't shied Nelson away from doing the little things.

"I can tell you endless stories of Taylor showing up at the rink helping out the youth, volunteering at the bantam practice," said Olin.

And that's all a part of how Nelson wants to be remembered.

"I want them to look at us and be I want to be them. I want to go to the state tournament, I want to do good in each game, I want to improve. That's what I think ultimately what we want the younger kids and even adults to look back on," said Nelson.

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton will host Eveleth-Gilbert on Thursday.

Neil Vierzba

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