There was a little bit more satisfaction than usual in Kalle Kossila’s five-goal outburst last month at Denver.
It wasn’t because the three goals on Dec. 11 and two on Dec. 12 propelled the Huskies to their first sweep in Denver in 18 years (5-2, 6-2), and it wasn’t because the offensive surge gave St. Cloud State its best start (14-4-0) since 2001 started (15-2-1).
No, the extra grin coming from SCSU coach Bob Motzko came because he believes Kossila’s performances are further proof of a healthy return to form for the Flying Finn.
“Kalle has been outstanding for us his whole career,” Motzko said. “He had 33 points as a freshman and 40 as a sophomore and only 26 as a junior, but that was because he really battled injuries and surgery all year and we weren’t going to broadcast it. He wasn’t cleared to play until 10 days into this season. It’s great to see the game coming back to him. He’s just now getting back into the best shape to do what he can do.”
Kossila is one of four players from Finland on St. Cloud’s roster, and the senior forward now leads SCSU in scoring with eight goals and 15 assists, tied for 13th in the nation.
He also leads perhaps the most talented senior class in school history with 122 career points. Classmates David Morley (45 goals, 46 assists, 101 points), Joey Benik (47 goals, 49 assists, 96 points) and Jim Murray (29 goals, 48 assists, 77 points) and Ethan Prow (13 goals, 64 assists, 77 points) lead the team offensively and goalie Charlie Lindgren (.925 save percentage, 2.03 goals-against this season) anchors the defense. Prow is the the lone defenseman and ranks sixth on the team in scoring this season (two goals, 15 assists), while the rest are forwards and the top four scorers for the Huskies this season.
“It’s been an awesome class to be a part of when you mix in Charlie and Jonny Brodzinski, who signed with the Kings after our junior season,” Kossila said. “I remember when we came in as freshmen there were stretches when only our class was scoring. Now Joey is about to get over 100, and Jim and Ethan are close. It would be insane if we could get Jim and Ethan to 100.”
Kossila wasn’t always sure he’d make it through his senior season. In the final game of his sophomore season he suffered an injury that six weeks later was diagnosed as a hernia. He had surgery three days later with hopes of impressing the Winnipeg Jets at a camp six weeks later.
It didn’t go well, he said.
“When I went to camp I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I remember doing sprints off the ice and felt pain in my hip in June of 2014. Everyone thought it a muscular issue and I was sitting out practices to rest it, and it wasn’t working.”
As he struggled with the pain during his junior season, a cortisone shot in January relieved him of pain and led to the finding of a tear in his labrum.
“I read up and a lot of times torn labrum comes with hernias,” he said. “The surgery is relatively new, about 7 or 8 years old. I had it done a few days after the season and spent two and half months rehabbing here before going home to Finland for a bit. I’m not all the way back, my left gut doesn’t fire like my right, but it’s so much better now.”
Firepower hasn’t been a problem for the Huskies, who lead the nation with 77 goals and 142 assists for 219 points. SCSU’s 4.28 goals per game ranks fifth in the nation.
The senior class all played key roles in the Huskies’ Frozen Four appearance when they were freshmen, and though they’ve been one and one the past two seasons, the Huskies like the blend of youth and experience on this squad.
“I see some qualities in our freshmen class that we had,” Kossila said. “They’ve got a lot of talent.”
Motzko plays three freshman defensemen on a regular basis, with Prow being the key to the blue line success. He calls Prow a steadying influence.
“Ethan keys our power play and is a leader,” Motzko said. “One thing about this team is we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves and that’s because of our senior leadership. You look at the firepower, but we’re obviously strong in goaltending with (Lindgren). He keeps us in it and gives us a chance every night.”
St. Cloud is ranks fifth in both the USCHO and USA Today/USA Magazine polls and fourth in ASN’s Elite Eight. SCSU is idle until Jan. 1-2, when it hosts a non-conference game series against Arizona State.