Brian Idalski’s experiences give him confidence to lead SCSU women’s hockey team – The Rink Live
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Brian Idalski served as head coach of women’s hockey at three locations. He was the head coach of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point from 2001 to 2006, the University of North Dakota from 2007 to 2017, and then the KRS Vanke Rays in the Russian professional league.
At each stop, success followed.
He took over a Pointers team that was 13-13-1 in 2000-01 and led them to a 26-1 record in his first season. In his five seasons at UW-SP, the Pointers were 108-21-11, reached the NCAA Division III Championship Game in 2004, took third place in the nation in 2006 and reached the national quarter-finals in 2005.
After a season as the assistant coach of the St. Cloud State women’s hockey team, Idalski took over the North Dakota women’s team after the Fighting Hawks went 0-27-1 in the WCHA and 3-31-2 overall in 2006-07. His first season, UND was 4-26-6 overall, but pulled out of the WCHA basement. By the time the program was cut by the university, Idalski’s teams had won 20 or more games in five seasons, reached the Division I tournament in 2012 and 2013, and his record with the Fighting Hawks was 169-156. -39.
Then over the past three seasons, he led the Rays to a 77-17 record, a playoff title in 2019-20 and regular season titles in 2020-21 and 2021-22. He also led the Chinese women’s hockey team to its first two Olympic victories in the preliminary round since 1998.
On Thursday, June 2, Idalski spent his first day as the new head coach of the St. Cloud State women’s hockey team. The Huskies went 4-20-3 in the WCHA and 9-23-3 overall last season and the program hasn’t had a winning season since going 15-14 -8 overall and finished third in the WCHA in 2009-10.
The program has gone 238-510-71 under five head coaches since becoming a Division I team in 1998. Idalski, however, sees plenty of positives and potential.
“The pressure is a privilege and I’m excited about it and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge,” Idalski said at a news conference introducing him as the new Huskies head coach. “I’m definitely relishing the challenge of being back in the WCHA – clearly the toughest college experience for hockey in the country.
“When you’re competitive like me, you want to beat the best and you want to challenge yourself.”
Idalski said the challenge he had in North Dakota was bigger than the one he faces at St. Cloud State. UND had been outscored 142-39 the season before he took over.
“Their leading scorer had 12 points when I took over,” Idalski said of North Dakota. “That’s not the situation I’m in. At that time, North Dakota wasn’t close. They were losing games like 7-0 and 8-0. It was kind of a total rebuild.
“I know some of the talent here and the players who are here and they have kids who are very good and very talented. You have a few Olympians – that was not the case (at UND). There are parts that we can work with immediately and the coaching staff – the two assistants (Jinelle Siergiej and Molly Engstrom) – are very committed and passionate about what has been built here and they are ready to take the next step.”
Siergiej and Engstrom, who are former Olympians and University of Wisconsin All-Americans, have both applied to be SCSU’s head coach and are under contract for next season. Siergeij has been with the Huskies since 2014. Engstrom, who was one of three finalists for the head coaching job, has been with SCSU since 2018.
Close games, talented players
Last season, the Huskies had two Olympians on their roster, forwards Jennina Nylund (Finland) and Klara Hymlarova (Czech Republic). This season, the Huskies will add forward Laura Zimmermann, a 19-year-old who played for Switzerland in the 2022 Olympics.
Goalkeeper Sanni Ahola, who played for the Finland Under-18 National Team in 2017 and 2018, was an All-WCHA Rookie Team selection in 2020-21.
Of St. Cloud State’s 23 losses last season, six were by one goal. Idalski thinks mental outlook will be an area of focus in his first season.
“Year 1 really starts with the mindset, just the belief in what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and that we’re going in the right direction,” he said. “That belief is starting to work into our work ethic, how we do things. What’s exciting for me is that it’s, by far, in a better place than what I took over at Dakota. North.
“I feel the players are echoing that sentiment, there are pieces here and it’s not a total burn to the ground, do it again. They were competitive. They had the opportunity to win quite a few games last year, (wins) that they feel like they left on the table. It’s about the mentality, some structure and being a bit more competitive. These are easy fixes in my mind, getting them to understand the right way to play, competing as hard as they can on a regular basis, and then just building some confidence by having success.”
Huskies receive transfers from New Hampshire, UMD
St. Cloud State added two transfers, who will join the team in the fall.
Avery Myers, a 20-year-old forward from Fargo, has spent the past two seasons playing for the University of New Hampshire. During those two seasons, Myers had five goals, 10 points, 12 penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating in 40 games. She played three seasons for the Fargo North/South women’s hockey team, then the 2019-20 season for the 19-and-under Minnesota Ice Cougars AAA team before playing for New Hampshire.
JoJo Chobak, a 21-year-old guard from Chicago, has spent the past two seasons playing for Minnesota Duluth. As a sophomore, Chobak went 10-4-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and three shutouts in 20 games. Prior to joining the Bulldogs, Chobak played for the Chicago Young Americans 19-U team.
2022-23 SCSU Women’s Hockey Schedule
September 25 — c. Manitoba (exhibition)
Sept. 30-Oct. 1 — vs. RPI
October 7-8 – in the State of Ohio
Oct. 14-15 – vs. Wisconsin
Oct. 21 – vs. Minnesota
October 22 – in Minnesota
October 28 – in St. Thomas
October 29 – against St. Thomas
November 4-5 – in Bemidji State
Nov. 11-12 – vs. Minnesota Duluth
November 25-26 — at Lindenwood
December 2 – against St. Thomas
December 3 – in Saint-Thomas
December 9 – in Minnesota
Dec. 10 – vs. Minnesota
January 6 – vs. New Hampshire (at Minneapolis)
January 7 – against Merrimack (in Minneapolis)
January 13-14 – at Minnesota State University-Mankato
Jan. 20-21 – vs. Ohio State
January 27-28 – v Bemidji State
February 3-4 – in Wisconsin
February 10-11 – at Minnesota Duluth
Feb. 17-18 – vs. Minnesota State University-Mankato
February 24-26 – WCHA Quarter-Finals