COLORADO SPRINGS, USA – USA Hockey named on Saturday Don Lucia head coach of the 2014 U.S. national team at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmö, Sweden.
Lucia, who was introduced at an evening press conference at the Xcel Energy Center, takes over for Phil Housley who led the USA to gold at the 2013 U20 Championships in Ufa, Russia.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to represent our country as the head coach of the National Junior Team,” said Lucia of his appointment. “When I started coaching I hoped one day to be involved with a US Olympic or World Junior team so when this was offered it was something to jump at.”
A Grand Rapids, Minnesota native, Lucia has been one of the most successful college coaches in the United States. He has coached 26 seasons of NCAA Division I hockey and his 622 wins rank fourth all-time among active coaches. His coaching career began in 1987 with the University of Alaska Fairbanks before moving on to Colorado College in 1993. Since 1999, Lucia has been with the University of Minnesota where he has won two NCAA titles in 2002 and 2003.
As he is still currently coaching with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, Lucia will miss two games during a holiday tournament in late December while leading Team USA.
Lucia said that despite missing two games, associate head coach in Mike Guentzel and assistant coach Grant Potulny, who was a Team USA assistant coach of the gold medal squad in Ufa, are more than capable in taking care of matters until his return. In addition, Lucia has the full support of the school in undertaking this national team coaching assignment.
“From our standpoint and in building a staff, Don was someone for a long time we talked about having with the national junior team and wanted to find the right setting that makes the most sense.” Said Jim Johansson, Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations and U20 General Manager.
It was revealed at the press conference that Team USA officials made the decision to appoint Lucia in January, citing his ability to develop players who move to the next level into professional hockey and for his preferred style of play. 19 of his players are currently in the NHL, including Thomas Vanek and Phil Kessel.
“The type of hockey Don coaches was the biggest intrigue here,” said Jim Johansson, Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations and U20 General Manager. “Don’s teams play up-tempo high paced hockey.”
Last summer, Lucia took part in the USA National Junior Evaluation camp at Lake Placid, New York and credits that experience in providing the basis for his role in preparing for the top job.
“I had a chance to work with many of the players who will be on the radar for the 2014 squad and I look forward to getting back to Lake Placid this August for our camp as we begin preparations for the World Junior Championship in December."
The evaluation camp will be held this year again in Lake Placid from August 3-10 to finalize the roster. Director of Player Personnel Tim Taylor is currently involved in the identification process of possible camp invitees. Approximately 45 players will be invited and an announcement will come in June.
“Looking at next years tournament and the available player pool, it became readily apparent that Don was the right choice for this team.” Said Johansson. “I want to make sure my coach is comfortable with who is sitting on the bench with him.”
The coaching staff will include Greg Brown, David Lassonde and Bob Motzko, it was announced. Dan Muse was also named to the team as video coach.
“We all have same philosophy of wanting to play up-tempo hockey,” said Lucia. “I like the personality of our staff. When you are in that bunker hunkered down, you want to be in there with people you enjoy working with.”
Brown and Motzko are making their Team USA coaching debuts; Lassonde and Muse were members of the gold medal winning staff in 2013. Lassonde, in particular, received praise at the press conference for his work with goaltenders, including last years World Junior Championship Most Valuable Player, John Gibson.
“I think we have a great staff. We tried to put together a staff that had experience on big stages.” He said. “We have a few holdovers on staff that will have familiarity with the format.”
The 2014 World Junior Championships will be held from December 26-January 5 in Malmo, Sweden.
The United States will be seeking its fourth medal in five years, having on gold in 2013 and 2010 and the bronze medal in 2011. Team USA will compete in a group with Canada, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia when the tournament begins in Malmo.
“This is a whole new team.” Said Lucia, whose son Mario was a member of the 2013 team. “We are not trying to repeat so much as trying to find our own path.”