With the Gophers men’s hockey coaching job open for the first time since 1999, there are sure to be plenty of candidates from which to choose for athletic director Mark Coyle. Here are some possibilities, based on accomplishments, ties to the program or Minnesota, and national stature:
THREE FROM THE STATE
Scott Sandelin, Minnesota Duluth head coach
Pros: The most accomplished, in terms of NCAA tournament success, of the three Minnesota head coaches who might be candidates if they have interest, Sandelin, 53, led the Bulldogs to their first NCAA championship in 2011 and to a runner-up finish last year. Minnesota Duluth has made eight NCAA appearances under Sandelin, including Frozen Fours in 2004, ’11 and ’17. He has a young team back in the NCAA tourney again this year. Also, he has coached two Hobey Baker Award winners (Junior Lessard in 2004 and Jack Connolly in 2012).
Cons: Sandelin, a former North Dakota player, has been Minnesota Duluth’s head coach since the 2000-01 season, so would he have interest in the job and be willing to leave Duluth? In March 2016, he signed a four-year contract extension that takes him through the 2020-21 season.
Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State head coach
Pros: Motzko, 56, has St. Cloud State as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament entering the West Regional in Sioux Falls on Friday and Saturday. The Huskies won the NCHC regular-season title and will seek to advance to the Frozen Four for a second time in school history; they made it in 2013. Motzko was a Gophers assistant coach under Don Lucia from 2001 to ’05, and Minnesota won NCAA championships in 2002 and ’03. The Gophers haven’t been national champions since he left. Motzko has led St. Cloud State to eight NCAA tournament appearances and coached a Hobey Baker Award winner in Drew LeBlanc in 2013. Also coached the U.S. to the gold medal in the 2017 World Junior Championship and a bronze medal this year.
Cons: A St. Cloud State graduate, Moztko has deep roots in the Granite City and has been the Huskies coach since 2005-06. At 56, would he relocate for the Minnesota job? Motzko is signed through 2020-21.
Mike Hastings, Minnesota State Mankato head coach
Pros: Hastings, 52, guided the Mavericks to the WCHA regular-season title for the third time in four years and has them in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in his six seasons in Mankato. The Mavericks are the No. 2 seed in the West Regional and will play Minnesota Duluth on Friday. The St. Cloud State graduate was a Gophers assistant under Lucia in 2008-09. Hastings won three USHL championships in 14 seasons as coach and general manager of the Omaha/River City Lancers. He was the USHL GM of the Year five times.
Cons: The Mavericks are 0-3 in the NCAA tournament under Hastings, including a 2-1 loss to Rochester Institute of Technology in 2015, when they were the No. 1 overall seed. Last year, Hastings signed a 10-year contract extension that runs through 2026-27.
TWO FROM THE CURRENT STAFF
Mike Guentzel, Gophers associate head coach
Pros: Guentzel, 55, has deep Gophers ties. He played for the Gophers from 1981-85 and has been an assistant with Minnesota from 1994 to 2008 and 2011 to the present. He’s popular among alumni and has been a coach and general manager in the USHL. Guentzel has served as Lucia’s top assistant, and is it time for him to get his shot at the head-coaching job?
Cons: The recent decline in the program has happened with Guentzel on the staff. If the administration is looking for a complete change, that might not work in Guentzel’s favor.
Scott Bell, Gophers assistant coach
Pros: A Gophers captain for two years under coach Doug Woog, Bell, 45, joined Lucia’s staff last June after spending five years as an amateur scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Inver Grove Heights native coached Division III Hamline for six years and built the Pipers into a two-time MIAC championship team. He is considered a strong recruiter.
Cons: Bell has been a Division I assistant for only one year.
Grant Potulny, Northern Michigan head coach
Pros: A three-year captain for the Gophers, Potulny, 38, helped the Gophers win two NCAA championships, including scoring in overtime to beat Maine 4-3 in the 2002 final. He served as a Gophers assistant under Lucia for eight seasons before landing the Northern Michigan job. The Wildcats enjoyed a turnaround in Potulny’s first year, going 25-15-3, finishing second in the WCHA regular-season standings and just missing an NCAA bid with a loss in the WCHA title game. He was named WCHA Coach of the Year.
Cons: Potulny has only one year of head-coaching experience.
Tom Ward, Buffalo Sabres assistant coach
Pros: Ward, 54, is a former Gophers player (1982-86) and assistant coach (1995-99). The Richfield native also spent 18 seasons as head coach of the highly successful Shattuck-St. Mary’s program, where he coached future NHL stars Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Toews and Kyle Okposo.
Cons: Tough to find many, though Ward hasn’t been a college coach since 1999.
Todd Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach
Pros: Richards, 51, is a former Gophers defenseman and captain who has been a head coach in the NHL for six-plus seasons, in 2009-10 to 2010-11 with the Wild and 2011-12 to 2015 with Columbus. Also has coached Team USA in the world championship.
Cons: Since all of Richards’ coaching experience is in the pro ranks, there would be an adjustment to the college game and recruiting.
Steve Rohlik, Ohio State head coach
Pros: Rohlik, 49, is a St. Paul native and former Hill-Murray coach who’s in his fifth season as Ohio State’s coach. He took over a Buckeyes program that had seven sub.-.500 records in eight years and built it into one that will make its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance this weekend. Ohio State finished second in the Big Ten in both the regular season and tournament this season and is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional. He also was an assistant at Minnesota Duluth for 10 years.
Cons: Rohlik played at Wisconsin. Would influential alumni accept an ex-Badger as the coach?
Robb Stauber, U.S. women’s Olympic coach
Pros: The former Gophers goalie and Hobey Baker Award winner, Stauber, 50, was Minnesota’s goalie coach from 2000 to ’08 and helped lead the team to two NCAA titles. The Duluth native just guided the U.S. women’s team to their first Olympic gold medal in 20 years.
Cons: Stauber hasn’t been a college coach since 2008.
Ben Barr, associate head coach, UMass-Amherst
Pros: The 36-year-old Faribault native and Shattuck-St. Mary’s graduate has been a successful assistant at several stops, helping recruit classes that led to NCAA titles at both Union and Providence. Also worked as Western Michigan associate head coach for two seasons.
Cons: No experience as a head coach.
FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Jim Montgomery, Denver head coach
Pros: Montgomery, 48, might be the best coach in the college game right now. Led the Pioneers to the NCAA title last year and a Frozen Four berth in 2016. Denver just won the NCHC tournament title and is a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Has guided Pioneers to the NCAA tournament in each of his five years at Denver. Shouldn’t Minnesota at least gauge his interest?
Cons: Would he consider leaving Denver for another college? Seems targeted to coach in the NHL after interviewing multiple times with the Florida Panthers for their coaching job last year.
Norm Bazin, UMass-Lowell head coach
Pros: The coach at Lowell since 2011-12, Bazin, 47, has led the River Hawks to an NCAA regional final in five of his seven seasons, including the Frozen Four in 2013. Manitoba native was an assistant at Colorado College for eight years.
Cons: The River Hawks dipped to 17-19 and seventh place in Hockey East this year.
Nate Leaman, Providence head coach
Pros: Leaman, 45, led the Friars to the NCAA title in 2015 and has them in the national tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
Cons: Leaman has spent his career out east. Would the Gophers pick someone without Minnesota ties?