By Matt Wellens
DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth’s three-time national championship coach Scott Sandelin was announced as the head coach for the 2020 U.S. National Junior Team on Tuesday, just hours before he and his team celebrated back-to-back NCAA titles with fans on the UMD campus.
The 2020 World Junior Championship on Dec. 26, 2019, to Jan. 5, 2020, in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic, will be Sandelin’s second stint as head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. The first was in 2005 when the U.S. finished fourth.
“It’s a huge honor to get an opportunity to coach in that tournament,” Sandelin said Tuesday in between being chased down for pictures and autographs from Bulldogs fans young and old. “It’s my second time as a head coach. I really enjoyed last year with Mike (Hastings) and the staff. Fortunately they asked me to do it. I wanted to make sure I really wanted to do it, and I did.”
Sandelin, a Hibbing native, said he was asked before the Frozen Four about serving as head coach. The rest of his staff will be announced in about a week or so. It didn’t sound like he was able to recruit Hastings — who will be coaching Sandelin’s son, Ryan, in the fall at Minnesota State — or his good friend Blais to join on, but Sandelin said he has a good staff. That was key to him taking the job, he said.
Sandelin just wrapped up his 19th season as head coach of the Bulldogs with a 3-0 victory over Massachusetts in the NCAA championship in Buffalo, N.Y. He’s now one of just nine coaches in college hockey history to win three or more NCAA titles. UMD is the first repeat champion since Denver in 2004 and 2005.
NHL Network had Sandelin on Tuesday afternoon after he was announced as coach. The network asked whether the longtime college coach had aspirations to make the jump to the next level, like some of his current players may do in the coming days and weeks.
“You always listen, no question,” Sandelin said about any potential NHL coaching offers. “It’s something that would be pretty exciting to maybe have that opportunity, but right now, I always call it the third season where we are at here wondering who’s staying or going with our team. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll certainly look at it.”
The NCHC handed out its final player of the month awards Tuesday with sophomore defenseman Mikey Anderson earning player of the month for March and April while junior goaltender Hunter Shepard was named goaltender of the month.
Anderson’s 14 points were tied for the most in the NCHC and nationally in March and April while his 12 assists were tops in the nation and conference. Four assists were on game-winning goals.
Shepard posted a 10-2-0 record in March and April with a .928 save percentage and 1.71 goals against average, plus two shutouts. That second shutout came in the NCAA championship game. The Cohasset native went 8-0 over the NCHC and NCAA tournaments with a .079 GAA and .967 save percentage.
The Bulldogs received a verbal commitment this week from 15-year-old Isaac Howard of Hudson, Wis. The 5-foot-8, 144-pound forward recorded 49 goals and 29 assists in 53 games for the Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minn.) boys U-14 squad this past season.