With a playing career that included countless brushes with history, helping to transform the game’s lore, while establishing herself as a scoring sensation, and subsequently, a role model, the 2016-17 season has seen Jessica Koizumi embark on a new chapter. Part of a new look coaching staff with the Ohio State Buckeyes, which features Nadine Muzerall as head coach, whose legacy as player and coach with the Golden Gophers was nothing short of legendary, Koizumi brings her acumen to a team hoping to elevate into the upper echelons of WCHA hockey.
Akin to Muzerall, Koizumi also has collegiate hockey roots in the state of Minnesota. Amassing 155 points over the course of 132 games with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Koizumi would find a memorable mentor in head coach Shannon Miller, the first female coach to win five NCAA Frozen Four titles.
Having also served as team captain, it was testament to Koizumi’s potential as a leader. Taking into account that the 2006-07 edition of the Bulldogs was her favourite team ever, it was only fitting that she would remain with the program after graduation, serving as an assistant coach.
“After winning a couple Clarkson Cups, world championships for the US in ice and roller hockey, the team during my final year at UMD is my favorite. We didn’t win a national championship, but we overachieved because of our team chemistry.”
Benefiting from both Miller’s expertise and encyclopedic knowledge of the game, it served as a springboard for a new element in her career, adding coaching credentials to a playing career that continued to build a legacy. Undoubtedly, Koizumi absorbed the influence of Miller; from her superlative abilities to motivate and bringing out the best of others, it was a great source of inspiration for her.
“Shannon Miller, my head coach at Minnesota Duluth, was the best coach I had as far as her ability to get the most out of each player. She certainly pushed me past any limitations I had placed on myself.
I have played with and against some of the best players to ever play the game. It’s been such a fun ride training with not only Olympic talent, but also teammates with amazing character.”
Having spent the last few seasons balancing play at the professional level while coaching at Yale University, where her coaching duties included the penalty kill along with the 6v5 unit, Koizumi hung up her skates in the aftermath of the Connecticut Whale’s inaugural season. Establishing herself as one of the first group of empowering women to compete in the NWHL, she would become linked with league lore by scoring the first-ever goal in regular season play.
Such a season was the epilogue to a remarkable career that included her skate for Team USA. Having played in Minnesota, Montreal, Boston and Connecticut, Koizumi competed in the inaugural Clarkson Cup finals, and became the first player in Boston Blades history to reach the 50-point plateau, capturing the coveted Cup with the club.
Looking towards the future with an enthusiastic ambition, Koizumi remains proud of her roots, reflecting on them fondly. After a summer vacation spent with family in California, it resulted in a personal inventory, an emotional crossroads which provided Koizumi with the confidence to proceed. Having first played in California, it was only fitting that the decision to retire took place there, bringing her career full circle. Paying homage to those that helped pave the way.
“I have had many great coaches and teachers who collectively developed my hockey skills and character. I am thankful for each of them. I’d love to mention them all, but three head coaches in particular have had an immeasurable impact; Scott Plumer, Shannon Miller and Tom Oseiki.
Scott Plumer was my coach in California during my high school years. He coached three time Olympian Angela Ruggiero and several other well renowned players. He certainly cared about each of us and worked tirelessly to help place us in college.
Tom Oseiki, was my coach in Blaine, Minnesota for those of us that were post-college in the national team program. We centralized for a season prior to Olympic year. Coach O taught us about little details that helped me think outside the box. It was more than just business with Coach O, it was learning about life lessons. One of his quotes he would tell us will always stick with me as my favorite “The reward from your effort is not what you get from it, it’s what you become of it”.
Along with my amazing parents who have supported me and helped me pursue my dreams, the Bartz family in California were my billet family during my final highschool season. Since our club team was 1.5-2 hours away, I made the decision for my senior year to move closer in order to get the most out of my training. The Bartz family really made me feel at home and I am so thankful for them. There have been so many great people like this who have been in my corner, I cannot thank you all enough!”
Focused on restoring the Buckeyes glory years from the Jackie Barto era, while hoping to establish new milestones, she is taking on the role of associate head coach.
Although the first half of the season saw the Buckeyes finish with a won-loss mark of 8-10-2, there were still many positives to build upon, including a winning record on the road and an undefeated mark against non-conference opponents. Considering that the Buckeyes enjoyed a solid 3-1-1 start, which included a hard-fought shootout loss on October 8 to top ranked Wisconsin, it was an encouraging beginning to the campaign.
Suffering a sweep later in the first half to the defending national champion Minnesota Golden Gophers, each loss was only determined by one goal, a possible sign that the balance of power may gradually shift soon. Taking into account that elite goaltender Kassidy Sauve was part of three straight shutout wins, including a sweep of Lindenwood (which saw Lauren Boyle score a hat trick), it is also reflective of the Buckeyes potential to become one of the WCHA’s elite programs.
In addition to Sauve, the Buckeyes feature a group of star players to build around. Of note, Lauren Boyle was a 2016 WCHA All-Rookie Team selection, while fellow blueliner Jincy Dunne (the Buckeyes assists leader) earned an invitation to USA Hockey’s Women’s Winter Training Camp.
Maddy Field is destined to follow in the footsteps of Laura MacIntosh and Natalie Spooner as great Canadian scoring sensations for the program. Currently, she leads the Buckeyes in numerous statistical categories, including power play and game-winning goals, respectively. In addition, freshman Samantha Bouley ranks thrd on the team in points and second in goals scored. Both players should see their skills strengthen under Koizumi’s tutelage.
With head coach Nadine Muzerall appointed to serve as bench boss for Canada’s entry at the 2017 Nations Cup, Koizumi gained the opportunity to serve as acting head coach of the Buckeyes. Taking the reins on December 29, she made her NCAA head coaching debut in a weekend series (Jan. 6-8) against Penn State of the College Hockey America conference.
Such an opportunity resulted in another exciting career milestone for Koizumi as the Buckeyes swept Penn State, winning by scores of 5-0 and 6-0. With Sauve providing back-to back shutouts (providing her with six on the season), her presence between the pipes help set the tone for an exciting and rewarding weekend. The first win saw Jincy Dunne log the game-winning tally while Katie Matheny, a senior from Missouri logged a hat trick.
After a scoreless first period in the second game, Samantha Bouley scored what would stand as the game-winner. Following her goal, the offensive floodgates exploded as five other Buckeyes scored in the contest (including Breanne Grant’s first of the season). In the aftermath of the sweep, the Buckeyes not only remain undefeated against non-conference opponents, but have outscored them by a cumulative mark of 24-1.
“Nadine was in Germany coaching (Canada’s) U22, so it was a really good experience to head coach for a couple of weeks and see our team being rewarded for their hard work with two solid wins. They did everything we asked them to.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”