The phone rang, and not long after, Emily Blasi started screaming.

On the other end of the phone with her dad, Rico Blasi, was St. Thomas athletic director Phil Esten, calling to offer him the men's hockey head coach opening. Emily was the first family member to find out.

"I thought the neighbors were gonna call the police because she was screaming so loud," Blasi said.

The most recent form of celebration came Tuesday when St. Thomas introduced Blasi at a news conference as the school's first Division I coaching hire. There's not much more time for celebrating, though. Blasi has a colossal task ahead of him: Preparing a team to compete at the highest level of college hockey come fall.

Blasi will call on his upbringing and hockey experiences to help the program make the jump from Division III to Division I.

"One athletic director said, 'There isn't anybody I'd rather build a program around than Rico Blasi,' " Esten said.

Blasi brings significant Division I experience, having coached at Miami (Ohio) for 20 seasons. During that time, he coached in 10 NCAA tournaments and the 2009 national championship game. He also played for the RedHawks as a two-time captain.

One season, he served as captain alongside Trent Eigner, now the boys' hockey coach at St. Thomas Academy. The success of Blasi as a smaller player — listed at 5-8 and 161 pounds — affected Eigner.

"The body of work as a teammate of mine is impressive," Eigner said, "because there's no way you can succeed at the Division I level at his size and stature without being a tenacious competitor."

Blasi plans to pair that with another value: Hard work.

Sure, that's an easy and cliché thing for an incoming coach to say, but it has a deeper meaning for Blasi. His parents modeled it well.

They emigrated from Italy and couldn't speak English when they moved. Blasi's dad worked as a cabinet maker until he retired, and his mother continues to work as a seamstress to this day.

"It was just instilled in me from a young age that no matter what the challenge is, no matter what the situation is, it's time to look at it, make sure you understand what we need to do, and let's go do it," Blasi said.

He understands that leading St. Thomas in transition to Division I won't be easy. First, he'll work alongside the previous coaching staff to assess what's in-house. Then, he'll turn to recruiting as well as the transfer portal, something Blasi said can fill pieces to the bigger puzzle.

Blasi noted the importance of recruiting Minnesota well, specifically mentioning the double-overtime game state championship game between Eden Prairie and Lakeville South.

Blasi will have plenty of competition, with five other Division I men's hockey programs in the state. Blasi said he plans to hire at least one, if not multiple, assistant coaches with Minnesota recruiting chops.

Eigner doesn't think Blasi will have trouble recruiting, though.

"There are a lot of coaches, myself included, at every level that would trade their coaching resume with Rico," Eigner said. "If you're a player and your aspirations are to compete on the biggest stage and in the biggest games, it has to be a comforting feeling to know you're gonna go play for a guy who's been in those situations and has built the program."

Outside of the exact makeup of the roster, Esten and Blasi want to make sure they create a strong culture.

Esten said this is a three- to five-year build.

"It's going to be a process," Blasi said. "It's not going to be overnight. But we're going to do it the right way. We're going to get players who fit certain roles we're looking for, then we'll adapt and adjust from there."