Lucia heads back for CC hockey series

by Sarah Mitchell

Four years ago, Toby Petersen was one of Minnesota’s top high-school prospects. Faced with the advice of several college coaches to buy into their program, the Bloomington product bought stock in Colorado College, citing former Tigers coach Don Lucia as the reason.
This spring Lucia was named coach of the Gophers (1-4-1, 0-1-1 WCHA), leaving Petersen with a season under the tutelage of new Tigers coach Scott Owens.
“Even though (Lucia) left, I don’t regret my decision. He was very good with his X’s and O’s. He knew his personnel,” Petersen said. “His best attribute was understanding the players. If people were playing poorly, he knew what guys were in a slump and would eventually come out of it on their own and what guys just needed a good kick.
“It was hard for me to see him go, but I understand why. Colorado College is the place to be, but Minnesota is the hockey pinnacle.”
Lucia reunites with Petersen and the other Tigers at Colorado College (3-2-0, 1-1-0) this weekend,. and Minnesota resumes conference action with a two-game series.
For Lucia, the return trip to World Arena means sitting on a neighboring bench to the Tigers he still has a vested interest in.
“It’s hard. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s not going to be a difficult weekend,” Lucia said. “I’ll be glad when it’s over.”
By Sunday, the Gophers hope to have gained two points in WCHA standings. The stakes are two-fold; Minnesota is looking to climb from eighth in conference standings and Lucia wants to look good against his old team.
“Everybody wants to get (Lucia) his second, third, fourth and so on and so on wins, but it will be even greater because it’s against Colorado College,” Gophers sophomore forward Doug Meyer said. “Nobody’s really been talking about it too much, but I know that’s probably the feeling. Coach Lucia’s done wonders for this team.”
Lucia cured the Tigers program when he took over in 1993. In his first season, Colorado College skated to the WCHA regular season title. The Tigers defended the crown the two following seasons.
This year’s Tigers are a familiar squad — the team was recruited during the Lucia era.
To name a few, Petersen is joined by senior forward K.J. Voorhees (3 goals, 3 assists, 6 goals), sophomore forwards Mark Cullen (3-4-7), Jesse Heerema (4-1-5) and sophomore goaltender Jeff Sanger (.916 save percentage).
Lucia said that while he knows the ins-and-outs of Owens’ roster, the Gophers have no edge entering the series.
“Once the puck drops it’s still a game of read and react,” Lucia said. “I know who we have to worry about, but whether you cover them at the right times or not still remains unseen.”
Minnesota’s problem this season has been consistency. The Gophers have been masterful in series openers, but lose a step the following night.
For Minnesota, there might be no better place to skate brilliantly back-to-back than World Arena. Petersen said Lucia would be under the scrutiny of the Tigers faithful.
“They’re not quite as forgiving,” Petersen said. “They don’t understand that it’s a step up.”

Sarah Mitchell covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]