Hockey. Here in Minnesota, it’s taken very seriously. There is an entire day dedicated to an event where people from all over the state lace up their skates in celebration of the sport. The beautiful thing about hockey is that it is played all around the world, especially in Switzerland.
St. Cloud State University was lucky enough to recruit one of those special players from Switzerland: a goalie named Janine Alder.
Alder was a goalie on Switzerland’s national team when they took bronze in the 2014 Olympics in Russia. It was a special moment in Alder’s life.
“It was great. I could never stop talking about it. Meeting all those big sports people and being on the same level as they are, it was just so fascinating,” Alder said.
While Alder was in Sochi for the Olympics, she was able to meet her hero, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. It’s safe to say Alder has captured a little of the magic Lundqvist has while she has been between the pipes at SCSU, posting a goals against average (GAA) of 1.95 and a save percentage of .937, which will far and away be the best numbers in the history of the program if they hold up. All three of the Huskies wins this year have come when Alder gets in the game, two wins as the starter and one coming in relief when Taylor Crosby sustained an injury during a game against North Dakota.
The humble goaltender won’t take much credit for her success, giving a lot of the credit to her teammates.
“Performing well as a goalie, you always need a team that will play for you. That’s the most important point as a goalie: you need to team to be on your side.”
The best three-game stretch for the Huskies was in their last game against North Dakota, the game Alder came in relief, stopping every shot that came her way, which allowed the Cardinal and Black to come back and win 3-2. Through their series against Minnesota State University Mankato, Alder only gave up two goals all series and posted a shutout in the series finale. The Huskies went 2-0-1 during that stretch, a stretch in which Alder’s numbers peaked at an incredible 1.07 GAA thanks to a .964 save percentage. It’s safe to say that Alder’s teammates have her back, and she has theirs.
It was her play against the Mavericks that allowed the team not to drop a game all weekend, saving 56 of 58 shots, 30 of those coming in her shutout. That was good enough to earn her the WCHA Rookie of the Week award, her second one of the season. According to Alder, it was an awesome experience, but once again she gave the credit to her team.
“I’m a rookie, but I’m pretty old, actually. I’m still a rookie and it was the reward for hard work, but it’s still the Rookie of the Week award, and it’s for the whole team. Without them, I couldn’t make it, and I need the support for the whole team to make it,” said Alder, who is 21 years old as a freshman.
Getting those wins was a huge confidence booster for the team, added Alder.
“Winning games is always a big confidence boost and is so important for the whole team,” she said. “Even if we lose, like last weekend when we lost two games, we did so well. We fought against them. The Gophers are like a big rock, in the first game we were just watching the big rock playing, but the second game we were like pushing the big rock. It’s a big confidence boost if you can score three-nothing against the top team in the whole nation.”
The WCHA is women’s hockey’s toughest conference, and having played for EHC Winterhur of Switzerland’s Juniors Elite B league, she had high praise for the NCAA compared to the men’s professional league.
“It’s really close. It’s the best women’s hockey I’ve ever seen; it’s crazy. It’s so close to men’s hockey—the speed and everything is close,” Alder said.
This team has started to really bring it together over the past couple of weeks, and Alder thinks the senior leadership is a huge part of that.
“The seniors are leading us. They are our idols. The freshman have had a big development from the start to now,” she said.
With the freshman phenom between the pipes for the Huskies, you can never count them out. Hockey is a family, and it’s safe to say that Alder has found a family with this pack of Huskies.