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St. Cloud State names Brian Idalski head women's hockey coach

Idalski coached UND for a decade from 2007 until the program folded in 2017.

kolstadidalskimenke.jpg
Rebekah Kolstad (left), Brian Idalski (center) and Amy Menke (right), who were together at UND, led the Shenzhen, China-based KRS Vanke Rays to a title in the top Russian league, the WHL. Photo by Gillian Kemmerer / KRS Vanke Rays
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ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Brian Idalski came to UND in 2007 with a building project on his hands.

He took over a UND women's hockey program that had gone 3-31-2 the previous season, 0-27-1 in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play and finished the year on a 20-game losing streak.

Within five years, Idalski turned the program into an NCAA tournament team.

St. Cloud State announced Thursday it has hired Idalski to try to do the same with the Huskies program.

Idalski will be St. Cloud State's next head women's hockey coach, taking over for Steve Macdonald, who was fired in March after just three seasons.

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St. Cloud State went 9-23-3 last season. The Huskies have never reached the NCAA women's hockey tournament in program history.

"Coach Idalski successfully built the UND women's program into a national contender and is recognized for his ability to raise performance expectations through recruiting and developing players," said St. Cloud State athletic director Heather Weems, who will soon become the commissioner of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. "He has a strong understanding of the recruiting landscape and how to compete in the WCHA."

Prior to arriving at UND, Idalski spent one year at St. Cloud State as an assistant coach.

"I'm really excited to be back in St. Cloud and for the opportunity to lead the women's hockey program," Idalski said. "The WCHA is the best collegiate hockey conference in North America, and I look forward to building St. Cloud State into a winner. I'm thankful to Heather Weems and the search committee for entrusting me with this opportunity and can't wait to get to work."

For the past three seasons, Idalski has been coaching the KRS Vanke Rays, who are based in Shenzhen, China. Idalski led the Vanke Rays to the WHL finals all three years, winning it twice.

He also served as China's head coach at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, leading the Chinese to their first-ever Olympic victory.

"His background, experience and success as a head coach at international, professional and collegiate levels of women's hockey make him a great fit for our Huskies program," Weems said.

At UND, Idalski made his mark by recruiting high-level players.

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The first two program-changing players to commit were Grand Forks natives and U.S. Olympians Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, who transferred from rival Minnesota. Soon, others followed, like Olympians Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani of Finland, Josefine Jakobsen of Denmark and Tanja Eisenschmid of Germany.

Idalski also landed U.S. and Canadian national-team level players like Amy Menke, Halli Krzyzaniak, Becca Kohler, Meghan Dufault and Shelby Amsley-Benzie to bolster the roster.

UND reached the NCAA tournament in 2012 and 2013, falling in triple overtime to eventual national champion Minnesota in the 2013 regional final.

Next season, Idalski will coach against a couple of players he recruited to UND.

Minnesota Duluth's star players are Gabbie Hughes and Ashton Bell. Both were committed to play for the Fighting Hawks when the program was eliminated. Bell won Olympic gold with Canada earlier this year and the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Frozen Four.

St. Cloud State opens the season Oct. 7 at Ohio State.

Ice Hockey - Women's Prelim. Round - Group B - China v Sweden
Former UND player Rebekah Kolstad (44) listens to head coach Brian Idalski and assistant Max Markowitz during China's game against Sweden in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Annegret Hilse / Reuters

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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