Kivihalme resigns as South hockey coach

Janne Kivihalme (wearing cap) directs a Lakeville South practice during the 2018-19 season, his first with the Cougars. Kivihalme resigned Thursday after three seasons at Lakeville South and less than two weeks after leading the Cougars to the state Class AA championship game.

Cougars reached state tourney all three years he was there

Lakeville South was within an eyelash of winning the 2021 Class AA boys hockey championship and could enter next season as one of the favorites. If the Cougars make another run at the title, they will do it with a new coach.

Janne Kivihalme, who led South to the state tournament in each of his three seasons as head coach, resigned Thursday. The resignation came less than two weeks after the Cougars lost to Eden Prairie 2-1 in double overtime in the state Class AA championship game.

“I want to thank all the players for your dedication and hard work and all the parents for your commitment to the program,” Kivihalme wrote on his Twitter account.

Kivihalme did not say why he resigned or if he was taking another coaching job. Several Lakeville South players weighed in on social media to thank Kivihalme.

“Greatest coach I’ve had till this day,” junior defenseman Mason Johnson wrote on his Twitter account. “Always believed in me and gave me a shot. Loved playing for you these past 2 years. Great mentor and leader. Gonna miss it.”

Tanner Ludtke, a sophomore forward and the Cougars’ second leading scorer in 2021, tweeted: “One of the best coaches I’ve had hands down. Showed up to the rink every day and dedicated so much time and energy to all of his athletes. Will not be the same without you. Thank you for 2 great years!”

Scott Stoneking told the Lakeville Area School Board on Tuesday during its regular meeting that the district should investigate the issues that forced Kivihalme to resign. 

He said there are concerns about coaches being harassed by parents who are unhappy with the program, and were not part of the program.  

Stoneking, who said he was speaking on behalf of several Lakeville South Hockey Booster Club and Lakeville Youth Hockey parents at the meeting, said Kivihalme had a 95% approval rating from end-of-year reviews. 

“There are concerns over why this happened, lot of questions and a lot of unknowns,” he said. “We would like some answers as a community.” 

Kivihalme came to Lakeville South before the 2018-19 season after 12 years as head boys hockey coach at Burnsville High School. His Lakeville South teams were 56-24-3, won three Section 1AA championships, two South Suburban Conference championships and a section academic award.

Lakeville South was 20-1-2 in 2021 and reached the state championship game for the first time in school history.

Kivihalme’s Burnsville teams qualified for the state tournament twice, won two Lake Conference championships and had winning records in his first 11 seasons.

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