Q&A: Women’s Hockey Coach Brad Frost

It’s hard to believe that a hockey coach can possibly be happy in the middle of summer, but Minnesota women’s hockey coach Brad Frost is just that.

This week, Frost will celebrate the one year anniversary of taking over the program when Laura Halldorson, the only coach in Gophers history, unexpectedly resigned.

He’s also recently been named as an assistant coach for the U.S. women’s national team and filled out the Gophers coaching staff with a monster get in Natalie Darwitz.

Last week, Frost sat down with the Daily to reflect on the past year Ö

What were your feelings when you heard that Laura Halldorson was resigning?

I was certainly really surprised. There was no indication of her standpoint – to me, anyway – that she was thinking about resigning.

When it happened, it was a real shock. From then, it was just kind of getting into the flow of it; “Okay, now what do we need to do to keep the program and keep the program strong?”

You had been here a long time before that all transpired. Did you ever think the job might not open up?

Yeah, Laura had done such a good job here and always had a great record and great teams. I had been here seven years before taking over, so I knew I wanted to be a head coach, but I didn’t think it would be at Minnesota for a long time.

When the opportunity came, it was certainly a real blessing.

Did you ever consider leaving the program for the likes of UND or Bemidji where there had been some openings?

I had pursued another job a little bit within the [Western Collegiate Hockey Association], but it was at the time when [Minnesota] had promoted me to associate head coach. That was an opportunity for me to stay with this great program and keep my family in the Twin Cities.

I had certainly thought about it, but nothing official ever really took place.

What was the high point of last season for you?

There were certainly several. I think early on in the year when we swept Duluth at home during our 10 year anniversary. That was certainly a high point.

Also, having the opportunity to play in the NCAAs and, unfortunately, losing to Wisconsin in overtime instead of winning.

And then the 21-game unbeaten streak was something that we’ll always remember as a time where we played really well.

Beyond all that, just the experience that the players were able to have and we were able to have, that was really special.

After the 21-game unbeaten streak and the WCHA Coach of the Year, you were still the “interim” head coach. Did you feel like maybe you weren’t going to be brought back?

I didn’t know, and I never approached it like, “I have to get the job” or “I’m going to get it or not going to get it.” I just approached it as I would with any other job, like I was going to be the head coach.

And I coached the way I would normally coach and was the way I normally am. I just figured if I did everything I could to be myself, things would work out.

I’m certainly very, very happy that Joel Maturi had the confidence in me to rehire me.

You’re known as a pretty relaxed guy in the locker room. Is there some strategy to that or is it just natural?

That’s mainly just how I am. I try not to get too worked up. It doesn’t mean I’m not competitive and don’t want to win.

I just want to treat people the way I want to be treated, and that’s always my focus.

I want us to have a good time out there because I think the looser our kids are, the better they are going to play.

If I get all uptight and panicky, they will, as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a strategy – it’s just how I operate, and we’ve been pretty successful doing it.

You used to be an assistant men’s coach at Bethel. What made your jump to women’s hockey, and would you ever go back?

I had coached girls’ volleyball and girls’ hockey at Eagan High School and New Life Academy, and right after college I got into coaching girls and loved it.

It came to a point where I just wanted to try something new, and I had the opportunity to go back to Bethel and be an assistant with the men’s team. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but the opportunity to get back to coaching women at the Division I level was what drew me to Minnesota because I don’t think there is a better place to work as a women’s hockey coach.

So no, I’m very much ingrained and set in coaching females, and hopefully it’s here for a long time.

What can you tell us about new assistant coach Jamie Wood?

He’s only been here a few days. We hired him a long time ago, but he’s Canadian so the visa thing took a little while.

He’s a great guy, a great hockey coach with a ton of knowledge. He was the head coach at Elmira College for three years and won two national championships there at the Division III level.

He certainly knows what he’s doing, and on top of that he has some wonderful connections in Canada and will certainly help us in that area of recruiting.

His specialty will be working with our defensemen and recruiting in Canada and North America.

You’ve lost to Wisconsin in the last three NCAA tournaments. Is there a way to get around them?

Oh, yeah. Score more goals. It’s interesting, looking back, that they’ve been the team that has knocked us out the last three years. That’s something that we’ll continue to try to work at.

I mean, we beat Duluth three out of four times, and they won the national championship this past year. Duluth beat Wisconsin five of six times and Wisconsin beat us four of six times.

It’s always a real battle in our league, especially with Duluth and Wisconsin. Every year is a little different, and hopefully it will be different this year.

What have you heard about Duluth’s “scandal” with Iya Gavrilova, who allegedly played professionally in Russia before going to UMD?

I haven’t heard anything about it and don’t really have a position on it. I think the NCAA hopefully has all the facts, one way or the other.

I’m not sure if anything should go down or shouldn’t because I don’t have all the information and I haven’t been over to Russia, so I don’t know how things operate over there.

You’ve lost a lot of talent from last season, but you’re also bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in history. What will the transition be like?

I think there will be a transition. We lost five great seniors – and not just hockey-wise, but leaders-wise and as people. They’re just fantastic people.

We’ve got a great class coming in, but we’re going to be younger. All the freshmen have accolades, but it’s never been proven at our level.

It will certainly be an adjustment, but I have a lot of faith in our senior class this coming year. I know they’ll lead the team effectively.

We’re going to get right into it right away, so hopefully the transition doesn’t take too long. The talent is certainly there.

Two years ago was kind of the same way, right?

Well, two years ago we had lost our Olympians, so there weren’t a lot of expectations.

It’s kind of the same thing; we’ve lost some great players. But every year it’s a little different; there are new kids and new culture and new identity. We’ll see how it plays out.

UMD, Wisconsin and Minnesota have always been the top three in the WCHA. Is that going to change anytime soon?

You’re right, it’s been kind of the top three and then another level, and I’d assume it’s going to be kind of the same thing [next year] as far as Wisconsin, Duluth and us battling it out for that conference championship.

But Ohio State has a great recruiting class, as does Mankato. St. Cloud is certainly starting to emerge in the conference, as we saw last year when they finished fourth in the conference, and North Dakota is a team on the rise, as well, and Bemidji is getting better and better.

There are no gimmes. I think there will come a time – and it might be this year – when someone cracks the top three.

It’s a matter of time, but it will happen.

You’re going to lead a slew of Gophers to the USA Hockey Women’s National Festival in Lake Placid this week. What does that mean for the program, especially when the Four Nations Cup starts in November?

It’s certainly an honor for me to be asked to be an assistant coach for Team USA and for several of our players to be on the national team and the Under-22 team.

It means we’re recruiting great kids and great hockey players, which we want to continue to do.

We always schedule the weekend of the Four Nations Cup off, so myself and whoever else is on that team will not miss any games.

We’ll just miss a week of practice, and that’s why we have Jamie Wood (and Natalie Darwitz) to take care of things here.

Is it true you’ll have to redshirt a player for the first time this season?

We have thought about that, but nothing is for sure yet. We’re bringing in a goalie, Alyssa Grogan (Eagan, Minn.), and we had thought that we might redshirt her, but we don’t know. We’ll let our goalies play that out.