St. Cloud State has filled their open women’s hockey head coaching vacancy, a position that became open when the school opted not to renew the contract of head coach Steve Macdonald at the end of this past season. Macdonald’s replacement is a name familiar to fans of the WCHA, as the school announced Brian Idalski as the new head coach of the Huskies.
Idalski has experience in St. Cloud, spending one year as an assistant coach with the program in 2006-2007, before being named head coach at North Dakota the following year. He spent 10 years as the head coach at Grand Forks, taking a program that went winless in the year prior to his hire and leading them to two NCAA appearances (and likely would have had a few more with a more just system for determining NCAA bids ). When North Dakota dropped their women’s hockey program in 2017, Idalski moved to China coaching the KRS Vanke Rays and helping prepare the Chinese national team, which he coached, for the 2022 Olympics.
The St. Cloud State job will be a difficult task for Idalski. With Ohio State’s program in ascendance coming off the school’s first national title, along with traditional national powers like Minnesota and Wisconsin, and Minnesota Duluth coming off back-to-back Frozen Four appearances, it does not leave a lot of room for upward mobility among the league’s have-not programs. It’s not likely to get any easier in the coming years either with St. Thomas establishing their program and recruiting at a high level as well.
But Idalski has proven in the past that he can put together teams capable of competing with the WCHA’s elite. He was certainly aided by the decision of the Lamoureux twins to transfer back to their hometown team, which helped establish North Dakota as a contender, but Idalski continued that momentum, including recruiting a group of players — which included two Patty Kaz finalists and an Olympic gold medalist— that may have competed for a national title had the school not chosen to cut their program.
It remains to be seen if he can bring that same type of success to St. Louis. Cloud State, but from the Huskies perspective, it’s as good of a hire as they could have made.