Q-and-A: Finnish goalie lives, breathes, talks hockey
If the Minnesota Wilderness has a face of the franchise other than the mug of hometown hero coach Corey Millen, it’s Kasimir Kaskisuo. The 6-foot-3, 20-year-old from Finland owns a Josh Harnett face (to borrow from another Minnesotan visage). In other words, he’s clean cut and square jawed to go with his dark features.
Had he been here 30 years ago, he might have been able to speak Finnish with many Cloquet folks outside the rink. Alas, those days appear to be gone. “Kaz,” as he’s known around Northwoods Credit Union Arena, hasn’t spoken a word of the Finnish language to anyone, outside of his mother, who visited him in December.
Still, his English is impeccable, and he was able to sit down with Pine Journal freelance writer Brady Slater for a Q-and-A about his season, which finds him with a 15-5 personal win-loss record and a North American Hockey League-best eight shutouts to go with the second-best goals against average (1.35/game) and save percentage (.948) in the 24-team league.
Q: You’ve ceded four straight starts to backup Frank Oplinger (of Sewickley, Pa.). Is it because you’re hurt?
Kaz: During the game last Friday I got a little sprain [in the ankle]. I’ll be back Friday [January 10 – for half-priced admission night at Northwoods Credit Union Arena, game time 7:05pm].
Q: Give me an assessment of the team’s season so far (they’re 19-9-5)?
Kaz: We haven’t scored too many goals the whole season, but we have been tight defensively and that’s why we’ve been getting the Ws. We haven’t been buying in on the systems and that’s why the goals we’ve scored are not enough.
Q: I hear you’re talking to a lot of American colleges?
Kaz: There’s been a lot of interest. I’ve got it narrowed down to a couple of schools. I should be able to make a decision pretty soon.
Q: Any Minnesota schools?
Kaz: There is one Minnesota school.
Q: You’re not saying which one?
Q: Tell me about your career before coming to Cloquet, Minnesota?
Kaz: I played three years in the Finnish junior league, under-20. So, it’s not that big of a change for me. It’s a bigger rink in Europe. It’s smaller here and the players shoot from almost anywhere. They don’t have that extra time to make the extra pass.
Q: Why hockey for you?
Kaz: Maybe because Finland won the world championship in 1995 when I was 2. I went to skating school after that and I’m still on the same road.
Q: How did you become a goalie?
Kaz: I saw some video of my skating school and I always liked to be in front of the net. I just liked it there.
Q: Job interview question. Tell me about your best attributes as a goaltender.
Kaz: I’m calm. I try not to do many extra movements. I keep it simple and efficient.
Q: You’ve been able to watch your backup pick up a 2-0 shutout win tonight. That’s important,isn’t it?
Kaz: Of course, we need a solid other goalie. If he can play and keep us in games, that’s going to help the whole team. Frank’s been doing just that.
Q: Any final thoughts?
Kaz: I’d like to see more fans at the games. (Or, in his native Finnish: “Haluaisin nähdä enemmän faneja.”)
Translated using Google Translate.