ST. CLOUD — Forgive Janine Adler if she takes a little extra time to savor her final season at St. Cloud State. The mere fact that the goaltender even is playing is remarkable, given what she’s gone through over the past six months.
“Adversity always helps,’’ Adler said, “and gives you perspective.’’
Adversity for Adler came on April 7 in Espoo, Finland, where the goalie was playing for her native Switzerland against the United States in the women’s hockey world championship. Adler, 24, had a mammoth workload against the eventual champions, facing 57 shots in an 8-0 loss.
“We had a fairly tough game, and especially as a goalie you’re always focusing,’’ she said. “A lot of stress during that game, and I sweated a lot and lost a lot of minerals.’’
Adler said she drank a lot of water before the game, resulting in a chemical imbalance. When she returned to her hotel room after the game, she felt dizzy and nauseous, and an epileptic seizure followed.
“It was not a normal epileptic seizure where patients can come back by themselves,’’ said Adler, who was placed in a medically induced coma for five days. She remained hospitalized in Finland for another week.
Long road back
Adler’s road to recovery of health spanned three months after she returned home to Zurich. She saw a neurologist to “have them scan whatever was wrong with my brain,’’ she said. “Then I was on epileptic medication for a couple weeks, which I hoping to get rid of fairly quickly because I made me super tired. I could not recover as I wished with these medications in my body.’’
The effects of the seizure, Adler said, were much like those of a concussion. “My brain just needed to recover. Everything loud, everything super busy was difficult.’’
There also was a complication in her recovery. While in the hospital after the seizure, Adler required intubation. Her lungs became infected and she developed pneumonia. “That held me back from training even more than the brain injury.’’
Slowly, Adler returned to health. She started training lightly two months after the seizure, then was cleared to train at 100 percent after three months. And six months later? “Absolutely perfect,’’ she said. “My parents say it’s an updated version of myself.’’
A budding author
A mass communications major who aspires to be a journalist or author in her post-hockey career, Adler used her rehab time to reflect and write about her ordeal. Over a six- to eight-week span this summer — “two months after the storm in my head’’ -- she wrote a book in German titled, “The First Thought: A report about health and the ancient animal in us’’.
She explained that her motivation to write the book was to help those who were with her while she was in the coma.
“I really didn’t experience it emotionally because I was asleep and was focusing on recovering,’’ she said. “But people around me were thinking about, ‘What could happen? What if she doesn’t wake up?’ I had a very heavy heart after talking to people about my surroundings. So, I had the urge to write it down and just let go of everything.
“The book was meant for my parents,’’ she added, “because they probably suffered the most.’’
Return to the ice
With her health scare in the past, Adler is enthused for her senior season with the Huskies, who aim to improve on their 10-25-2 record from 2018-19. She made 33 saves in a 5-2 season-opening loss to Ohio State on Friday, and her goal is “to have the best season of my four years and to be successful this year. New beginnings, new coaches, an absolutely even-keel focused team.’’
Adler, who had a 4-14-1 record last year but a strong 2.63 goals-against average and .935 save %, splits time in goal with junior Emma Polusny. “With her and Emma Polusny in net, two of the best goaltenders in the country, we’re really excited,’’ said Huskies coach Steve Macdonald, in his first year in charge after five as an assistant. “That’s where it starts.’’
Macdonald first recruited Adler when he was a Minnesota Duluth assistant while scouting a tournament in the Czech Republic. “You see this shorter [5-foot-5] goalie, and her movement and mobility were outstanding,’’ Macdonald said. “They ended up losing that game to Canada, but she was the reason it wasn’t worse. Her ability to compete and her footwork and technique — those skills draw you to a player first. Then you get to know them, and that’s what drew me to her.’’
Her game, Adler said, mirrors her calm, thoughtful personality. He pointed to a tight, 2-0 loss to eventual NCAA runner-up Wisconsin in front of 15,000-plus at the Kohl Center during her freshman season. “They were coming at us. She just stood tall,’’ Macdonald said. “She had this calmness and maturity that helped our whole team respond. She was like, ‘Yep, I’ve got it, Coach.’ ’’
The recruiting process took a couple of years, but Adler eventually landed at St. Cloud State. There were adjustments to American culture and to the style of play in the women’s game. In Switzerland, she began her hockey career playing against boys’ teams.
“I never had it in my mind to be playing women’s hockey in the future. I had the dream to play men’s hockey,’’ Adler said. “At that point, [St. Cloud State] was the best opportunity to experience a different culture and to do hockey at such a high level and academics at such a high level.’’
Macdonald is thrilled to have both the player and person in his program.
“First off, she’s just an exceptional human being,’’ he said of Adler, who speaks five languages — her native Swiss German, German, French, Italian and English. “She’s extremely emotionally intelligent. She’s very self-aware. When she talks, it means something. There’s always a purpose and always well thought-out. She’s very highly respected by her teammates.’’ That respect includes Adler’s teammates voting her team captain.
Her senior season has started, and Adler plans to make the most of it. After that fateful day in Finland, she’s filled with joy that she can play hockey.
“Absolutely. I already appreciated being able to play and step on the ice every day before,’’ she said. “Now, it’s even more with being back with the team.’’