One of the pitfalls of recruiting European players is that the European system doesn't place the same huge barrier between professional and amateur athletics that the North American system does. As a result, otherwise amateur European players eligible to play college hockey usually find themselves starting their NCAA careers with a small suspension for playing on a team with professional players.
That was the case with St. Cloud freshman defenseman Mika Ilvonen. Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times reports that Ilvonen will be suspended for St. Cloud's first five games of the season for playing with a professional player while in Finland.
Five games is a significant chunk of a 36-game season to begin with, but it is particularly difficult for St. Cloud who, as we noted in our St. Cloud season preview, begins the year with an extremely difficult non-conference schedule. Ilvonen is eligible to play in St. Cloud's exhibition game this weekend against Canadian school Trinity Western, but will miss a home series against sixth-ranked Colgate, a road series against defending national champs and fifth-ranked Union, and the home half of a home-and-home series against top-ranked Minnesota.
Ilvonen is a small, puck-moving defenseman that has represented Finland internationally and was expected to take on a regular role on the St. Cloud blue line.
St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko understandably wasn't happy about losing a player over what most would agree seems like a technicality, telling Hatten:
"The bottom line is that it's a rule that has to be fixed at a higher level. It's unfortunate because these guys are being victimized in a situation that is nothing of their doing."