MANKATO — Perhaps more than any other player on the Minnesota State men's hockey team, Josh Nelson was looking forward to the end of 2013 and the beginning of the new year.
The senior defenseman has missed all but the first three games of the season with a lower-body injury that he feared would cost him the final season of his college career.
But Nelson is back on the ice now and could be in the lineup tonight when the Mavericks take on Alaska in the first game of a WCHA series at Fairbanks, the city Nelson called home for two seasons as a junior player.
"It's a brand new year," Nelson said Wednesday before the team left for a 12-day trip to play the Nanooks (tonight and Saturday) and Alaska Anchorage (Jan. 10-11). "I'm pretty much trying to take on everything as positively as I can. I'm trying to enjoy everything."
Nelson wasn't sure if he'd be able to play for the Mavericks again. He considered hip surgery, but an appeal to the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver and an extra year of eligibility was denied.
"It was definitely really difficult," said Nelson, one of the Mavericks’ alternate captains. "It was a really long process. Each day, probably 10 guys asked what the news was."
He never had an answer.
"That was a tough time," coach Mike Hastings said. "You have visions as a player of how you'd like your senior year to go. I don't believe he wrote this book or this chapter for his senior year. But he did a real good job of being selfless in the process."
He continued to get treatment on the injury and, when he started to feel better, decided to give it a go for the second half of the season. Nelson said he felt good in practice this week and is hoping he can hold up. He said surgery is still a possibility after the season.