Severi Sulonon is new to the St. Cloud Norsemen but by no means is new to the NAHL. The Turku, Finland native has played 114 NAHL regular season games; five with the Northeast Generals in 2020-21 and then all of last year, including eight of their nine 2022 Robertson Cup playoff games, and the first 39 games of this season with the Minnesota Wilderness. But for the last 11 games Sulonen has been a Norseman and the acquisition of the defenseman has been paying immediate dividends.
St. Cloud Assistant Coach Brock Kautz sings Sulonen’s praises. “He’s adjusted pretty well in my opinion. I know playing up in that rink may play just a little differently but he’s scored a couple big goals for us and he’s been a part of the success that we’ve had in the short amount of time that he’s been here,” explains Kautz. “He’s been a part of the solution for sure. We’ve been very happy with how he’s handled it; not being from this country and being traded. One thing that’s nice is he didn’t have to go too far. He’s been working hard and he’s been pretty steady for us since he’s been there. Hoping that he can continue that path for the rest of the year.”
Those two goals Kautz references both proved pivotal; both were third period goals on the road that tied the game and both were games St. Cloud would eventually go to overtime in. Sulonen was getting on the scoresheet in Cloquet before the trade with 13 points in 39 games but they were all assists and he seemed to be a little snakebit. But on February 25th in Austin, MN Sulonen potted his first goal of the season leading the rush up the right side and releasing a wrister from above the circles and then he scored a very similar goal in Mason City, IA the Norsemen’s very next game, tallying those goals in his sixth and seventh games in a Norsemen uniform.
Speaking in idioms can be difficult with someone whose native tongue isn’t English but Sulonen nods along, fully understanding when asked about if he felt he got the monkey off his back with his first goal of the 2022-23 campaign. “Yeah, for sure. I mean I felt like the whole season like I couldn’t even buy a goal if I wanted to so once I got that first one I kind of stopped thinking about it,” admits Sulonen. “When you do that good things start to happen.”
It could be a tough situation for someone from Finland living in the United States, but fortunately for Selveri this is his fifth season in North America. In the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons Sulonen played for Rothesay Netherwood School in Rothesay, New Brunswick. Sulonen put up impressive numbers for Rothesay in the MPHL and their U18 AAA program, scoring 32-53-85 in 132 games between the two teams over two seasons. Then in 2020-21 Sulonen was in the greater New England area, playing 35 games for the Rochester Coalition 18U AAA in Rochester, NY and five games for the Northeast Generals who hail from Attleboro, MA.
Sulonen had a whirlwind of a seven-day span to begin the month of February 2023; on Friday, February 3rd he played in his 100th game NAHL regular season game. Monday and Tuesday, February 6th and 7th, he was in Pittsburgh, PA playing in the NAHL Top Prospects Game. He then made his Norsemen debut on Friday, February 10th in Bismarck. Severi seems to be enjoying his time in St. Cloud and is making the most of the situation and his new opportunity. “I’m really liking it; all the boys brought me in pretty good and I feel like we have a really good team,” Sulon explains. “We have a possibility to make a run here in the playoffs.” He’s tasted success in his time here as the team has gotten into a better postseason position and the Norsemen are 6-2-3 since he was acquired and he’s appeared in all St. Cloud games since joining the team.
The first thing that jumps out to a lot of people when they see Sulonen is his size at 6’3, 198 lbs., but Kautz says there’s so much more to his game that doesn’t get recognized as quickly. “He does a really good job in our own end manipulating sticks and creating some space to move pucks to our forwards in tight areas,” compliments Kautz. “He’s a very smart, intelligent hockey player and obviously just his ability to get up and go with good stick skills to make plays in the offensive zone has been fun to watch too. Especially in the D-zone, we’re pleased with his ability to get pucks out and to make smart, intelligent high-level hockey plays.”
Sulonen focuses on keeping the other teams off the scoresheet first, but he takes pride in contributing offensively too when the situation calls for it. “I would like to think I am a two-way defenseman,” Sulon describes himself. “Definitely try to keep my own end clean and then jump on the rush when I can and make plays in the offensive zone when it’s possible.”
Sulonen and the Norsemen have a pivotal road trip this weekend to Minot to battle the Minotauros on Friday and Saturday with the puck dropping both games at 7:35. Four teams make the NAHL playoffs from each division and Minot is currently sitting in fifth place and desperately trying to leapfrog anyone in the standings before the regular season comes to an end. You can view either or both games online at hockeytv.com.
The next home game for St. Cloud will be on Thursday, March 30th, vs. the Austin Bruins. Tickets for all Norsemen games can be found at: tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.