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Prep boys hockey: Superior looks to one of its own for new hockey coach

New coach Evan Nelson played for the Spartans in 2006 and has been an assistant in the program since 2014.

Superior’s Mason Stenberg (18) celebrates a goal by Trevor Anderson (8)
Superior's Mason Stenberg (18) celebrates a goal by Trevor Anderson (8) during a 2022 game against Proctor.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Superior hasn’t had to hire a new boys hockey coach in more than 20 years, but when they did their candidate was right under their noses.

The Spartans hired longtime assistant Evan Nelson to take over for Jason Kalin after Kalin led Superior for 21 years. Nelson graduated from Superior in 2006 and played for Kalin his senior year after spending the previous two seasons with the Spooner Mustangs of the now-defunct Minnesota Junior Hockey League.

Evan Nelson talks to the Spartans during practice at Wessman Arena
Evan Nelson talks to the Spartans during practice at Wessman Arena in Superior. Nelson has been named the new head hockey coach at Superior High School.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

After spending several years coaching at the youth level, Nelson joined Kalin’s staff for the 2014-15 season. Kalin led the Spartans to more than 300 career wins and three start championships in his career.

Nelson knows he has a tall task in replacing Kalin on the Spartans’ bench, but he also learned from his former coach’s vast experience.

“There isn’t a whole lot on my list that I haven’t learned from him,” Nelson said. “That amount of time, that many wins — they’re big skates to fill.”

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Superior activities director Ella Olson said the school is excited for Nelson to take over the program after watching him work with Kalin over the last two years.

“I have witnessed the amazing relationships he has built with student athletes, along with the coaching knowledge it takes to make a successful program,” Olson said in a statement. “As a native Spartan, blue through and through, it is very clear that Evan will put his heart and soul into this position.”

Nelson said he hopes to build character in his players and deal with the “ups and downs” of a long season positively, hoping they are playing their best hockey in February and March.

He’s also got another big challenge ahead of him with replacing the 19 seniors that will leave the program this season. Replacing that many players won’t be easy, but that’s part of the challenge and Nelson is ready for it.

“I can’t say that we’ve ever had a turnover of this magnitude, so it’s going to be a little different than most,” he said. “But there’s a lot of opportunity for some new guys to step in and earn a role in the lineup every day. That’s the exciting part, to see who’s going to put the work in over the summer and at the end of the day, we’re still going to be a competitive hockey team.”

The Spartans won three Wisconsin state championships and appeared in the title game seven times during Kalin’s 21-year stint as head coach.

Jamey Malcomb has been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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