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Former Gopher, Finnish national team D Mira Jalosuo hired to be assistant coach for SCSU women's team

She spent the last 3 seasons as the head coach of the Stillwater girls hockey team after four seasons at Wayzata High School and Hamline University. Jalosuo played in 2 Olympics, 9 world championships for Finland

Jalosuo Mira 043.JPG
Mira Jalosuo played defense for the University of Minnesota women's hockey team from 2009-13 and helped the Gophers win back-to-back NCAA Division I titles her last two seasons.
Contributed by Eric Miller, University of Minnesota

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Brian Idalski has known about Mira Jalosuo for several years. He coached against her when she played for the University of Minnesota.

Idalski also coached Noora Raty, a friend of Jalosuo, for the last three seasons for the KRS Vanke Rays in the Russian professional league.

"The last few years, I've had the privilege of working with and coaching Noora Raty and I have a great relationship with her and she and Mira are best friends," Idalski said. "We've known each other and run into each other at the rinks with youth hockey and coaching. Knowing how well she was doing at Stillwater, it was a good fit on short notice.

"It worked out super well. I don't think we could have a better candidate if we'd had two months to fill it. On short notice in an emergency hire, it is super awesome to have someone of her caliber and experience."

Jalosuo, a 38-year-old former Finnish national team and pro defenseman, has been hired to be an assistant coach for the St. Cloud State women's hockey team. Idalski spent his first day as the Huskies' head coach on June 2 .

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On Aug. 16, SCSU assistant coach Molly Engstrom was named the head women's coach at the University of Maine . That put St. Cloud State into the position of needing to make the emergency hire with the first official practice for the team coming on Sept. 17.

"I have been coaching since 2012, so I was coaching when I was playing hockey," said Jalosuo, who retired in 2018. "It created a lot of connections. I have been following the program for a long time and I was always hoping that I don't have to move (far) for a Division I (coaching) job, so it worked out great.

"Brian called me and asked to have a meeting with me and it worked out great. I have know Brian (since) he was coaching at (the University of) North Dakota and I was playing for the Gophers. Brian was coaching a lot of my friends the past couple of years in China."

Jalosuo spent the last three seasons as the head coach of the Stillwater High School girls hockey team. The Ponies reached the Class AA state tournament in 2021 and went 54-20-4 under her.

Before taking over at Stillwater, she was an assistant coach at both Wayzata High School and for Hamline University from 2015-19.

"I enjoy coaching high school hockey," Jalosuo said. "It was a lot of fun and I get along with the families, the school and the players. The players were awesome and that's why it was so hard to leave (Stillwater).

"I wanted to be transparent with them right away when I signed the contract," Jalosuo said of joining the SCSU staff on Aug. 18. "I had a very emotional team meeting with the players. It's not easy to leave a program that I helped build."

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Mira Jalosuo played defense for the University of Minnesota women's hockey team from 2009-13 and helped the Gophers win back-to-back NCAA Division I titles her last two seasons.
Contributed photo by Eric Miller/University of Minnesota

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Former competitive ski jumper

Jalosuo has an impressive resume in hockey that started in sixth grade. Jalosuo had been a competitive ski jumper since the age of 8 when a teacher saw her skating.

"My gym teacher saw me skate and I always loved pond hockey with my friends," she said. "She had a son who was two years older than me and played hockey. She asked me to go to a practice, just to see how it is.

"I fell in love with the sport. I was horrible, like a 'C' level player. I'm one of these people who can't give up. I just worked my butt off every single day. I was playing extra pond hockey. All of a sudden I was getting very good. It didn't come easy."

What apparently came relatively easily was telling her mother that her ski jumping career was over.

"For me, the easier road to the Olympics would have been as a ski jumper," said Jalosuo, who grew up in Lieksa, Finland, about 330 miles to the north and east of Helsinki. "I broke my mom's heart as a sixth-grader when I said that I'm going to give up ski jumping and go all in for hockey. She said, 'You're out of your mind. You're not a very good hockey player and you're a very good ski jumper.' I said, 'I don't care. It's going to work out.'

"I was beating the guys who ended up going to the Olympics seven years later," she said of her ski jumping talent. "I'm from a small town and we had a couple athletes, who ended up making the Olympics in ski jumping. I'm from a town of 12,000 people and if you have two guys who make the Olympics, everyone is looking up to them. That was the main reason that exposed it to me at a young age and I was always watching it from TV because the local guys were doing it."

By the age of 17, Jalosuo was spending time on Finnish national hockey teams and started gaining looks from American colleges.

"I didn't know anything about college hockey," she said. "I remember getting a call in Finland to come play college hockey (in the U.S.). I was at an IIHF High Performance camp and my roommate happened to be Bobbi Ross, who was the Gopher captain at the time.

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"I had a lot of offers and email from college coaches, but I didn't know any of them. Bobbi was like, 'I play for the Gophers. What's your name? What's your email address? I will give your email address. I will give your email address to our coaching staff."

2013 NCAA Women's Division I Ice Hockey Championsip
University of Minnesota defenseman Mira Jalosuo celebrates a goal against Boston University in the national championship game of the 2013 NCAA Women's Division I Frozen Four on March 24, 2013, at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn. The Gophers finished the season 41-0-0.
Contributed photo by Jim Rosvold/University of Minnesota

2-time Olympian for Finland

Eventually, Jalosuo and Raty began making recruiting visits and both ended up playing for the Gophers.

"I think we made five official visits," Jalosuo said. "All the (other) schools were talking badly about the Gophers and how they hate European players and why they haven't had any yet.

"Somehow, at a very young age, I was able to connect the dots that those (Gophers) probably must be very good because these guys are afraid of them. Because their common theme was, 'Let's not talk about our success. Let's talk about how bad of an experience you will have as a Gopher.'"

She joined the Gophers in 2009 and had 19 goals and 57 points in 152 career college games, helping Minnesota win back-to-back Division I titles her last two seasons.

Jalosuo played in nine IIHF world championships and two Olympic Games (2014, 2018) for Finland before retiring. Among all of her playing memories, not surprisingly, the Olympics top her list.

"That's the one time where you feel equal to the male hockey players," she said. "Everybody is treated the same, living in the same apartment buildings, eating the same foods. So there's no special treatment for anybody. That was my favorite thing — feeling like we were playing in the NHL."

She helped Finland win the bronze medal in the 2018 Olympics and win the bronze medal four times at the world championships (2009, 2011, 2015, 2017). When she was helping coach at Hamline, she was an assistant under Natalie Darwitz, who led the Pipers to their first two NCAA Division III semifinals appearances.

So Jalosuo has been around a number of very successful coaches in her career.

"I got very lucky that I started coaching while I was playing," she said. "I was starting to think (about) things from each coach that I really like. The thing that comes to my mind is you have to care about the girls. You have to really get to know them individually and know their personality. Once you get their trust, you can start asking more from them.

"Those coaches are usually very, very successful. We ended up winning championships at the end of years because I truly believe that they had the player's best interest in their heart when they were making (coaching) decisions."

Idalski said that Jalosuo will begin the season in charge of the team's defense and penalty kill.

The Huskies open their season with an exhibition game against Durham West Jr. Lightning on Sept. 25 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. SCSU opens the regular season with a nonconference game against RPI on Sept. 30 at the Brooks Center.

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Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com
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