Brian Idalski, the former head coach of the University of North Dakota women’s hockey team, will be the next head coach of the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. The Ice Garden contributor Gabriella Fundaro reported the news on Tuesday afternoon.
There’s been quite a bit of coaching turnover for KRS in the club’s short history. Idalski is the team’s fourth coach in three seasons. Bob Deraney was named head coach in June 2018 but was replaced by then-assistant coach Mike LaZazzera in January of this year. Digit Murphy coached the team in its inaugural season in 2017-18, but parted ways with the club that spring before Deraney was hired.
Idalski was the head coach at UND for 10 seasons, from 2007-08 to 2016-17. During his tenure, UND became a top team in the WCHA and finished in the top half of the conference for the team’s final seven seasons. He also guided North Dakota to NCAA Tournament bids in 2012 and 2013, the first-ever appearances for the program.
This past season, Idalski coached the Culver Academy (Ind.) girls’ hockey team. He led the team to USA Hockey nationals for the first time in his first year as head coach.
KRS had a successful season under Murphy in 2017-18, taking the Markham Thunder all the way to triple overtime in Game 3 of the semifinals to make the Clarkson Cup finals in their first season. They weren’t able to repeat that success in 2018-19, though, finishing in fifth place in the standings and missing out on the CWHL playoffs.
In each of the past two seasons, the team has brought in a good number of international players to fill some primary roles. Finnish Olympic goaltender Noora Räty has started in net for the club since its inaugural year, and U.S. Olympian Alex Carpenter was the leading scorer for KRS last season. Whether those particular players return remains to be seen, but Idalski will surely set out to do the same and recruit top talent from outside of China.
The change behind the bench won’t be the only one for the Rays in 2019-20. For the past two years, the club competed in the CWHL, but with the league now folded, they’re looking for new competition. It is still unconfirmed which league the team will join.