MANKATO — Rebekah Kolstad had a good relationship with women’s hockey coach Brian Idalski in her two seasons playing hockey for him at the University of North Dakota.

North Dakota shuttered its women’s program in 2017, and Kolstad transferred to Minnesota State to finish her college career. The Mankato native played the last two seasons with her hometown Mavericks, wrapping up her college career last March.

This summer, Idalski started recruiting Kolstad again, this time to join him on a professional team in China.

“I was content with ending my career,” Kolstad said. “But I’m really excited about this now. If (Idalski) wasn’t the coach, there’s no way I’d be doing this. It will be easier to know that I have that support when I’m there.”

Kolstad recently agreed to play for the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, which are now part of the Russian Women’s Hockey League. She announced her decision on Twitter on Thursday.

Last year, the Vanke Rays were part of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, but that league folded after its 12th season. The team hired Idalski this offseason. He coached at North Dakota for 10 seasons before the university cut the program for financial reasons.

“When (Idalski) got the position of head coach of that team at the beginning of the summer, I texted him congratulations,” Kolstad said. “He said, ‘Do you want to come with?’ That planted the seed.”

Kolstad originally balked at the idea of moving overseas to play professional hockey. But later, when Kolstad’s mother asked her about the potential opportunity and Idalski called a day later, Kolstad took it as a sign and started to compile a list of pros and cons.

“It seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” she said. “It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. If I’m going to do it, I need to do it now.”

Kolstad finished her final college class on Thursday and is graduating from Minnesota State with a degree in psychology and minor in sociology. She will leave for China in mid-August.

The team will provide transportation to China as well as room and board, along with her salary.

“Right now I’m working on all my visa stuff and paperwork,” Kolstad said in a phone interview on Friday.

Shenzhen is a city of 12.5 million people in southeastern China near Hong Kong.

Kolstad said she has thought about trying to play professional hockey, such as in the United States-based National Women’s Hockey League, but not too seriously. The NWHL has a St. Paul-based team, the Minnesota Whitecaps, which won the championship in its first season in the league.

In four college seasons — two with UND and two with MSU — Kolstad had 19 goals and 37 points in 139 games. Last year as a senior, the forward had 17 points, including 10 goals, for the Mavericks.

At Mankato East, Kolstad played six seasons for the East/Loyola team and compiled 233 points. She was an All-State selection in 2014.For more college hockey coverage, read Shane Frederick’s Puckato blog and follow him on Twitter {a style=”font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif ” href=”http://twitter.com/puckato” target=”_blank”}@puckato{/a}

For more college hockey coverage, read Shane Frederick's Puckato blog and follow him on Twitter @puckato

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