According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, Don Lucia, head coach of the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team, is expected to be named head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team that will look to defend gold at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. USA Hockey will make the formal announcement at 5 p.m. CT Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
Lucia, who has 623 career wins as a collegiate head coach, has been the bench boss at Minnesota since 1999. He led the Gophers to back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003 and has made four trips to the Frozen Four. Lucia also served as a head coach at the University of Alaska and Colorado College.
Despite his exceptional credentials, Lucia’s selection comes as a bit of a surprise. Outside of a stint coaching an Under-16 team in 1996 and coaching at the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1995, Lucia hasn’t been as involved on the international side of USA Hockey.
Lucia did participate as a camp coach at last year’s National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., so that could be where the groundwork started being laid to get him into the mix this year.
Perhaps it’s more surprising this hasn’t happened sooner. Lucia’s name has been brought up many times in those “why not him?” conversations when it comes to the WJC coaching position. With the Gophers reestablished as one of the power teams in college hockey and a pair of seasoned assistant coaches in place to cover while he’s gone, maybe the timing is right for Lucia to dive into this new challenge.
Unquestionably, even without much of the international variety, Lucia has the right kind of experience to lead this team. With Minnesota a perennial postseason team, Lucia has been in the pressure-packed situations that should prepare him for the incredibly unique pressure of the World Junior Championship, especially with a title to defend.
Lucia’s son Mario was part of last year’s gold medal team, so can Don make it two-for-two for the Lucia family? USA Hockey obviously hopes so.
Expect much more on this reported selection after the formal announcement Saturday.