Mike Guentzel recently said he is a better coach now than he was before he left the Gophers in the spring of 2008.
At the time, Guentzel said he resigned to find a head coaching job. Truth be known, he was let go in the spring of 2008.
He found work the next three seasons at three different places:
* 2008-09, he was an assistant at Colorado College
* 2009-10, he was head coach and general manager of Des Moines in the USHL
* 2010-11, he was an assistant at Nebraska Omaha
Last summer he returned to the 'U' as the associate head coach, and the coach in charge of the defensemen. Head coach Don Lucia and his defensemen all speak highly of the job he has done this season. So do the statistics; the Gophers are fourth nationally in fewest goals given up per game, just over two per game (2.03).
"You learn a lot from other people," Guentzel said recently at a Blue Line Club luncheon. "Sometimes when you are in the same mold, you kind of get set in your mindset.
"I learned a lot from CC. How to do things differently. A different perspective. I coached a different position [forwards]. Did a little bit more recruiting on the road. Looked at a little bit more of a broader recruiting base as far as not just being in the state of Minnesota.
"And then when I went to Des Moines," Guentzel said, "I quickly realized now you are running your own team again. I realized that year you better get back real fast and be a college assistant because it is a better job.
"So I went to Omaha last year with Dean [head coach Dean Blais] and Mike [assistant Mike Hastings] and it was a different kind of deal. It was more black and white. Less systems. You just better play hard and block shots and be physical and things like that.
"So everybody has a different style, a different perspective, a different way of getting their message across. So it just kind of enlightens you, refreshes you, recharges you a little bit. And then you come back here and bring some ideas."
The Gophers had three returning defensemen: junior Seth Helgeson and sophomores Justin Holl and Mark Alt.
All have been regulars this season. And Guentzel has found three more players to plug into the lineup every game: sophomores Nate Schmidt and Jake Parenteau -- part-timers their first season at Minnesota -- and freshmen Ben Marshall.
"When you are in the position I have been," Guentzel said, " you continue to watch the games, work on your professional development side, see what has changed in the game and see what you can do to keep getting guys.
"One thing that is difficult in college is you get the same guys for four years in some cases. And they hear your message year after year. And they go, 'I have heard that story before.'
"So you come back, and now you have everybody's attention because it is new and fresh," Guentzel said, referring to his return to the Gophers. "Next year you come back with different ideas, and give the group of guys that were with you this year, a little bit more.
"Ultimately our job is to make sure every day we come with the right attitude because we want them to energized and refreshed every day, too."
On WCHA sweeps: "It's hard this time of the year to win back-to-back games because teams are fighting so hard for home ice, and playoff position and NCAA berths. It is a challenge."
On Schmidt, tied for fourth nationally in assists with 25 "He has done really well. .. He is a good power-play player. He is really smart. You want guys to make a good first pass. You want guys to defend. And, obviously, the way we play we want our guys to handle the puck and make plays. And Nate does all that. He has had a good year for having played only seven or eight games as a defenseman last year.
"He is coachable. He looks you in the eye and he wants to get better. Sometimes he is harder on himself than I need to be on him, which is a good thing, too."
GOPHERS VS. UMD REMATCH?
About this time of the year, I start paying more attention to Jayson Moy. He writes a weekly column for USCHO.com on bracketology.
What's that, you ask? He takes a look at how the NCAA hockey tournament might look, relying on the current PairWise ratings -- and who is leading the five conferences -- to determine his field.
This week his West Regional at the Xcel is:
Rochester Institute of Technology, the No. 16 seed, vs. Minnesota Duluth, No. 1
Gophers, No. 9, vs. Michigan, No. 8
That could produce a great final if UMD and the Gophers won their first games. And if the region final was UMD and Michigan, that would be a rematch between the teams in the 2011 NCAA title game.
The Gophers opened their WCHA schedule this season against the Bulldogs in Duluth. They won both games 5-4, but UMD had 50 shots in each game.
Here is his Midwest Regional in Green Bay:
Denver, No. 14, vs. Ferris State, No. 4
Notre Dame, No,. 12, vs. Boston College, No. 5
Based on the current PairWise, the WCHA has only three teams in. The CCHA would have six, Hockey East five, and the ECAC and Atlantic Hockey one apiece.
UPCOMING WCHA SKED
* Bemidji State (12-12-2, 6-10-2) vs. Nebraska Omaha (15-10-2, 11-9-0) at CenturyLink Center (15,959) ... Mavericks tied (3-3 ot) and won (5-1) at Sanford Center in Bemidji on Nov. 11-12.
* Michigan Tech (12-12-2, 9-7-2) at Minnesota State (9-18-1, 5-14-1) at Verizon Wireless Center (4,832) ... Split Nov. 4-5 in Houghton. Huskies won 1-0, Mavs won second night 6-3. ... Michigan Tech is 3-1-1 in 2012.
* St. Cloud State (10-14-4, 7-10-3) at Wisconsin (12-12-2, 7-11-2) at Kohl Center (15,325) ... Huskies have one-point lead over Badgers in standings. ... Huskies beat Badgers 7-2 and tied them 3-3 on Nov. 4-5 at the National Hockey Center. .... SCSU has only 11 healthy forwards; can't afford any more injuries up front.
* Minnesota Duluth (17-5-4, 11-4-3) at Alaska Anchorage (6-16-2, 3-16-1) at Sullivan Arena. ... The Bulldogs swept the Seawolves 5-0, 3-1 at home on Nov. 11-12.
* Colorado College (14-9-1, 11-7-0) vs. Denver (15-8-3, 10-5-3) at Magness Arena (6,025) first night, at Colorado Springs World Arena (7,380) second night. ... Both teams won at home earlier, DU 5-4 win on Nov. 12, CC 4-3 (ot) on Dec. 2. Denver has a five-game winning streak.
* Idle: Gophers (19-9-1, 15-5-0) and North Dakota (15-10-2, 11-9-0)
COACHES' RADIO SHOWS
The start of my list:
Gophers/ Don Lucia Show, 6-6:30 pm Mondays, 1500ESPN
St. Cloud State/ Bob Motzko Show, 6-7 pm Mondays, KNSI 1450-AM/103.3-FM
Denver/ George Gwozdecky,6:30-7:30 pm Tuesdays, 102.3ESPN
Nebraska Omaha/ Dean Blais Show, 6-7 pm, Tuesday, IHeartRadio, 96.1-FM