Lucia named head coach of 2014 U.S. National Junior Team

Drew Claussen

The Gophers played a stretch of games this season without freshman defenseman Mike Reilly because of the World Juniors Tournament.

Next season, the tournament will cause them to compete without their head coach.

Don Lucia has been named coach of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team. He will lead the team at the World Junior Championships on Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, 2014, in Malmö, Sweden.

“When Jim [Johannson] offered me the opportunity, obviously it’s something you’re going to jump at,” Lucia said.

Johannson, the general manager of Team USA, said he liked Lucia’s experience working with an international-sized ice sheet.

Lucia will head a staff that’ll feature Greg Brown from Boston College, Dave Lassonde from Denver, Bob Motzko from St. Cloud State and Dan Muse from Yale. Motzko is a former assistant coach of Lucia’s.

“I wanted to get some coaches from the East Coast,” Lucia said. “I thought that was important just from a player pool standpoint.”

Gophers assistant coach Grant Potulny was an assistant coach on this year’s juniors team.

Lucia said he’ll only miss two games next season because of the tournament. Assistant coaches Mike Guentzel and Potulny will be in charge of the team during Lucia’s absence.

“I’ve got a great associate head coach in Mike Guentzel, so no worries there,” Lucia said. “He and Grant can take care of everything back on the home front.”

Lucia said people shouldn’t expect a surplus of players from the University of Minnesota on the team because he’s the head coach.

“In some cases it might be like coaching your own kid — they better be better than some of the other players,” Lucia said. “The last thing you want is certainly any favoritism.”

Minnesota tournament announced

The Gophers will take part in a four-team college hockey tournament of schools from the state of Minnesota next season.

The event, which has yet to be named, will run Jan. 24-25, 2014, at the Xcel Energy Center. It will feature the Gophers, Minnesota State-Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State. 

The tournament was created so that the five NCAA Division I schools in Minnesota continue to play each other despite the conference realignment.

Minnesota will move to the Big Ten, UMD and St. Cloud State will depart to the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference and MSU and Bemidji State will remain in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

“There’s a lot of tradition between Minnesota’s five Division I programs,” Lucia said in a release. “We are certainly excited to keep those rivalries intact moving forward.”

The Gophers will headline the tournament, with the other four schools rotating to fill the final three spots.

The tournament will use a fan-based competition to pick its name, and sponsors are still being sought out for the event, according to Minnesota associate athletics director and men’s hockey administrator Tom McGinnis.

Bemidji State athletics director Rick Goeb said the teams hope to create an event similar in structure and appeal to Boston’s Beanpot Tournament.