By Brad Schlossman
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — St. Cloud State is looking for a new head women’s hockey coach.
Eric Rud, who has been at the helm for the last five seasons, was introduced as the new associate head coach for the Miami men’s program Monday, May 13.
That leaves an opening in St. Cloud.
One of the most intriguing candidates for the Huskies could be former University of North Dakota head coach Brian Idalski.
Idalski had success turning around a UND team that won just three of 61 league games before his arrival. By Year 4, UND won 20 games, and in Years 5 and 6, it made the NCAA tournament.
UND’s arrival under Idalski broke up the longstanding “Big Three” in the WCHA — Minnesota, Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth — three programs that held down the top three spots in the standings for 11 of 12 WCHA seasons from 1999-2011. Then, the Fighting Hawks finished ahead of the Bulldogs in five of UND’s last six seasons, and tied for second with Wisconsin once.
UND never made it to the NCAA Frozen Four under Idalski, but was a goal away in 2013, when it lost in triple overtime in the NCAA quarterfinals to a Minnesota team that went a perfect 41-0-0 that season.
There is one more reason why Idalski would be an intriguing option at St. Cloud State: He’s been there. Idalski was an assistant with the Huskies when UND hired him away. It’s also worth noting that three of St. Cloud State’s top six returning scorers for next season’s team are players who Idalski originally recruited to UND.
The next St. Cloud State coach will face different circumstances than Idalski did when he landed at UND in the fall of 2007. On one hand, the Huskies program isn’t in as deep of a hole as UND’s was at that time and isn’t dealing with the growing pains of a fledgling program. But the Huskies also don’t have a recruiting tool like Ralph Engelstad Arena to sell prospects.
Idalski’s familiarity with St. Cloud State and his experience turning around a program in the challenging WCHA will make him one of the most intriguing names if he decides to chase the job, though.
Idalski just finished his first season as head coach at Culver Academy in Indiana. He led Culver to its first-ever trip to nationals this spring.
Two associate coaches on one team
The surprising part wasn’t who Miami hired. It had been known for a week that Barry Schutte and Rud would assist new head coach Chris Bergeron.
The surprising part of Monday’s announcement was that both Schutte and Rud were named associate head coaches.
Could this be a new trend in college hockey aimed at luring top coaching candidates by giving more prestigious job titles to both assistants instead of just one?
According to collegehockeystats.net, there are four other NCAA teams that have two associate head coaches — Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Quinnipiac and Providence. The Fighting Irish and Friars have only done it for one season. Wisconsin and Quinnipiac have done it for several years.
UND had the more traditional setup last season: a head coach (Brad Berry), an associate head coach (Dane Jackson) and an assistant coach (Matt Shaw).