Ilves-Hockey and Ilves ry have named the club’s junior teams’ upcoming head coaches. Miikka Kuusela, 42, will be in charge for the A-juniors during 2020-2022 seasons. B-juniors will be in the hands of Sami Hirvonen, 45, and Ilves B-academy is being head coached by Samuli Simula, 38. Antti Kangasniemi, 34, will be the head coach of C-juniors.
After the 2019-2020 season, Ilves’ A-juniors head coach will be Miikka Kuusela, who is currently the head coach of KOOVEE in Mestis. Kuusela began his coaching career in 2009 as an assistant coach in Ilves’ C-juniors. After a couple of years, he then coached Lempäälän Kisa (LeKi) for multiple seasons. During his LeKi years, 2011-2013 and 2014-2019, he was the head coach for over three seasons and between those years he was an assistant coach in Ilves’ A-juniors. Kuusela has also played in Mestis.
Kuusela was honored with the coach of the year award in Mestis, the second highest league level in Finland, after LeKi finished in fourth place in 2018-2019 season following a solid second place finish in regular season.
Sami Hirvonen comes to behind the bench of B-juniors from SaiPa’s coaching staff. He has previously coached Ilves’ junior teams in 2003-2008 and 2016-2017. Hirvonen has also experience regarding coaching men as he was the head coach of LeKi in 2008-2010 seasons. After that, Hirvonen has been part of coaching staff of many teams playing in Liiga for nine seasons.
The new head coach of B-academy Samuli Simula represented mainly KOOVEE in his active career as a player. He began his coaching career during 2013-2014 season in Koillis-Pirkan Kiekko. In 2015-2016, Simula was the head coach of KOOVEE. He is currently assistant coach in Ilves B-juniors.
C-juniors’ new head coach Antti Kangasniemi is known from Liiga as he ended his active career in 2017-2018 season. Having played nearly 300 regular season games (40+54=94) and 20 post season games (2+5=7), Kangasniemi began his coaching career last summer in A-juniors’ coaching staff. During his active career, Kangasniemi won the national championship in A-juniors. In addition, he won the championship in Mestis wearing Kajaanin Hokki’s jersey.
Timo Koskela, the sports director of Ilves-Hockey Oy, is pleased with the additions presented above and is looking forward to collaboration with Ilves ry related to development work.
– We have constantly aimed to develop Ilves’ operations related to sports in every aspect and at the same time tighten the collaboration with Ilves ry. I am pleased to say that things are rolling on time towards our objectives. For instance, three of our junior teams secured spots in upper national leagues. Numerous Ilves players have represented Finnish youth national teams which shows that players truly develop in our organization. We want to offer them [juniors] chances to grow up, develop and earn a roster spot in the first team. For us, that is essential as the competition gets even tougher, Timo Koskela says.
– We also want to get success as a team and I find that these objectives are not exclusionary, on the contrary. We are very pleased with the newest coaching additions. The teams’ coaching staffs will be represented as a whole later.
Ilves ry’s ice sports chairman Sami Karjalainen agrees with Koskela’s opinion.
– On behalf of Ilves juniors, I am very pleased with the fact that our organization does quality work with the players who are striving further on their careers. The organization gives and creates a genuine chance for the younger players to compete at the level that is the most suitable for each individual, says Karjalainen.
– Collaboration between the Ilves’ first team and junior teams is developing constantly, and we will keep up the good work in the future, too. The newest coaching additions emphasizes the passionate and high-quality player development work the organization does. It will continue as we work together systematically inside the organization.