The top-rated, in-state high school prospect for the 2011 NHL draft is Mario Lucia, according to the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau.

That's right, Don's son. He is a junior forward at Wayzata who has a knack for scoring goals. He often stations himself around the net and is hard to move.

Mario, his father said, has not made a college decision yet. The Gophers might not be his choice.

"There is a lot to that," Don Lucia said on Wednesday. "Part of me wants to be his dad, not his coach. For him a lot goes into [his decision]. He is a different type of player. There are a lot of dynamics that go into your locker room. It is one thing if you are a coach’s son killing penalties, it is another issue if you are the coach’s son on the power play."

Mario will play on the power play wherever he goes. He is bigger already than his older brother, Tony, was. Mario is listed at 6-2.

"So what is best for him? There is more that goes into it because he is a different player than Tony," Don Lucia said.

Mario has said that he is looking at Colorado College, where his father once coached, and Denver as other WCHA options. Notre Dame, his father's alma mater, is probably another option outside the conference.

PAST SUCCESS

"You are going to go through some good times and some more difficult times," Don Lucia said, "and we are in some difficult times. We certainly appreciate the confidence that [Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi] has in me and what we can do with this program becasue we have done it before."

Lucia won back-to-back NCAA titles at Minnesota in 2002 and 2003.

"I don’t think we would be in the same situation if i just started a job and we were three, four years into it," Lucia said, "but there is a pretty good track record, I have been in the league 18 years. [I have] been fortunate enough to be part of a lot of great times, but if you coach long enough -- next year is going to be 25 years as a head coach -- if you coach that long you are going to see both side of the fence. It is a lot more fun to be on the wining side, I can tell you that."

 

One media member asked if he was surprised that so many fans are upset with him? "That shows the passion," he said. "That is the expectation and the passion that this program has. Whether you are a player or a coach, you know what you sign up for. You have to have some thick skin.

"It is easy to second guess, that is the nature of sports. But what you have to do, is have confidence in the decisions you make, you have to let the water run off of you so to speak a little bit and keep forging ahead and continue to make decisions that you think are in the best interests of the program."

The Gophers' season, Lucia's 12th at Minnesota, ened when Alaska Anchorage swept the Gophers 4-3 and 2-0 in a first round WCHA playoff series.

"Had we won [last] weekend, we’d be in the NCAA tournament and everybody would be in a good mood," said Lucia, known to have a keen understanding  of the PairWise ratings. "But we didn’t [win last] weekend, which  leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth -- as it should.

 

"So much of this year was really rewarding for me and .. our coaches. To see where we were back in October  and to see where we were in February and early March and how much improvement we did make the second half of the year."