Gophers coach Don Lucia said new Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson was a good hire with a good understanding of the school in Houghton, Mich., because he played for the Huskies

"Mel and I go way back," said Lucia on his weekly radio show Monday on 1500ESPN. "We graduated from high school the same year. He was at Edina, I was at Grand Rapids, so we played each other every year in high school."

Pearson was born in Vancouver, but his family moved to Edina when he was a youth.

"[After high school,] he went to Tech and I was at Notre Dame," Lucia said, "so we played every year through my four years of college. And, obviously, butted heads many times when he was [coaching] at Michigan and I was at CC [Colorado College] and then here. Mel is a good guy. It was a great hire on their part.

"Mel had been waiting -- I told Mel if he was waiting for Red [Berenson] to retire [at Michigan], you are going to retire before Red does. You better take a head job if that is what you want to do."

Pearson played for Michigan Tech from 1977-81. He was a forward. He was a Huskies assistant before joining Berenson's staff at Michigan in 1988. In 1999-2000, he became the Wolverines' associate head coach.

Lucia said Pearson has a good situation at Tech.

"The [Huskies] were absolutely devastated by injuries last year. ... Mel is playing a bit more high tempo," Lucia said. "They are much more skilled. ... Last year they were minus-25 in specialty teams, that is almost a goal a game and that is a big difference. And now they are a plus-1. So that is a major turnaround."

The Huskies have scored 15 power plays goals and given up 14.

"They are scoring a lot more goals," Lucia said. "They have two returning goaltenders from last year's team and they are off to a great start. ... They've got three balanced lines. They have some incoming freshman that are scoring and helping them."

Lucia said when he was in the WCHA, one of his favorite road trips was to Michigan Tech.

"The [hockey] community was a little more active back then," Lucia said. "Their rink was packed. It was a very difficult place to play. But it was a fun weekend of hockey when you went up there. They had it going, obviously [in] the '70s. They played the 'U' for three straight national titles in '75, '75, '76. And even up to 1981, they were in the Frozen Four that year as well."

Lucia said things will change for Michigan Tech in the WCHA in two years when the conference is re-shaped: "What you will see with the WCHA in a few years is how competitive it is going to be from top to bottom. Some of those teams, whether it be Ferris State or Northern Michigan, and Lake Superior State, some of those teams which will be coming into the league are having great years.

"You will see real good balance in the league in a few years. And there is no reason that Michigan Tech can't look at itself and say, 'We are like everybody else. ]They are all pretty much Division II schools.] We should be able to compete with anybody in this new league.' "

* Lucia said the Gophers have been remarkably healthy so far except for forward Christian Isackson being out because of an infection (he played in two of the past three games) and defenseman Blake Thompson being out with mononucleosis.

Isackson has played in only four of 16 games, Thompson in two.