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NCAA conference realignment spurs coach carousel

Wednesday, 10.19.2011 / 2:28 PM / On Campus

By Bob Snow - NHL.com Correspondent

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NCAA conference realignment spurs coach carousel
An NCAA-record 10 hockey programs began this season with new coaches.
When Terry Pegula, Penn State alum, Buffalo Sabres' owner and energy mogul, dropped an $88 million endowment check in the mail to fund a D-I program in Happy Valley last year, he triggered a domino effect that has led to the biggest transformation in college hockey history.

Leading coaches across NCAA history

A pair of Boston guys are approaching the hallowed ground of Ron Mason's record 924 all-time career wins, most of which came at Michigan State

Leading their respective alma maters, Boston College's Jerry York (883) and Boston University's Jack Parker (855) are likely to eclipse Mason -- with York on pace to become the all-time leader sometime next season.

All of Parker's wins came at BU -- a record likely to stand until the end of the next Ice Age. To put that in perspective with current coaches, Michigan's Red Berenson trails Parker with 732 victories at his alma mater; York has 416 at BC.

Looking at the overall top 10 in NCAA history -- with a little help from the Inside College Hockey archives -- here's how NHL.com breaks down the cream of the all-time college coaching crop, considering their accomplishments and impact on the sport:

No. 1 -- Jerry York (Clarkson 1972-79, Bowling Green 1979-94, Boston College 1994-present)
York ended BC's 50-year championship drought in 2001, then triumphed twice more in 2008 and 2010 to go along with five other trips to the title game ('98, '99 '00, '06, '07). Add a Bowling Green title in 1984 to highlight his early success and York joins Rick Comley at Northern Michigan (1981) and Michigan State (2007) and Ned Harkness (No. 7 below) as the only other coaches to win NCAA championships with two schools.

No. 2 -- Jack Parker (Boston University 1973-present)
Parker took the Terriers to the mountaintop in 1978, 1995, and 2009, but perhaps more impressive are his five straight trips to the Frozen Four from 1974-79 and seven Frozen Four appearances in eight seasons from 1989-97. Don't forget his approach to the career-win mark, all with the Terriers. He leads all coaches in trips to the NCAA postseason with 23.

No. 3 -- Murray Armstrong (Denver 1956-76)
Armstrong and the Pioneers made 11 Frozen Four appearances, bringing the national championship trophy back to the Mile High City on five occasions: 1958, 1960, 1961, 1968 and 1969. He and Michigan's Vic Heyliger (No. 8 below) are the only coaches to win back-to-back titles twice in their careers; only Heyliger won more NCAA crowns than Armstrong.

No. 4 -- Red Berenson (Michigan 1984-present)
Berenson returned to his alma mater after a stellar NHL career, inheriting a Wolverine program that won more than 20 games just seven times in 27 seasons between 1957 and 1984. Since taking over, Berenson has built a national powerhouse, winning national championships in 1996 and 1998 all while maintaining a record of 21 trips and counting to the NCAA Tournament.

No. 5 -- Herb Brooks (Minnesota 1972-79, St. Cloud State 1986-87)
Brooks' amazing run in just seven seasons at Minnesota includes four trips to the Frozen Four and NCAA titles in 1974, 1976 and 1979 -- the first hockey championships in the program's history. Of course, the Olympic gold medal in 1980 is what truly keeps Brooks among the very top tier.

No. 6 --- Bob Johnson (Colorado College 1963-66, Wisconsin 1966-82)
Badger Bob guided the fledgling Wisconsin program to four Frozen Fours and won NCAA championships in 1973, '77 and '81. He further proved his coaching prowess in the pro ranks, leading the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 1991.

No. 7 -- Ned Harkness (Rensselaer, 1949-63, Cornell 1963-70, Union 1975-77)
Harkness joins York and Rick Comley in winning NCAA championships at two schools, leading RPI to a title in 1954 and Cornell in 1967 and '70. His 1970 Big Red championship roster, led by Ken Dryden, is the only unbeaten, untied champion in NCAA history.

No. 8 -- Vic Heyliger (Illinois 1939-43, Michigan 1944-57, Air Force 1969-74)
Critics argue that Heyliger made his mark when Division I hockey programs were just forming, but there's no denying that six national championships between 1948-56, including three in a row from 1951-53, will stand the test of time.

No. 9 -- John MacInnes (Michigan Tech 1956-82)
MacInnes, who played for Heyliger at Michigan, ranks No. 8 in career wins and coached the Huskies to NCAA crowns in 1962, 1965 and 1975, and second-place showings in 1974 and 1976.

No. 10 -- John "Snooks" Kelley (Boston College 1933-72)
Kelley led the growth of the sport as much as anyone in NCAA history. When he took over at his alma mater, the NCAA Tournament was still 15 years away. He brought the Eagles a national title in the second Frozen Four in 1949 and made nine more trips to postseason play. Of major note is Kelley recruited an all-American roster when other teams were comprised almost exclusively of Canadians. Kelley spent 36 years behind the Eagles' bench during five decades, becoming the first college coach to win 500 games.

-- Bob Snow
In addition, a number of coaching changes across the NCAA's 59 teams during last spring and summer -- some directly related to Pegula's penchant for the game on ice -- shook the college ranks as an NCAA-record 10 squads began this season with new coaches.

The merry-go-round began when 13-year CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos announced his departure from the executive role to return to his alma mater as Michigan State's new coach to replace the retiring Rick Comley.

With the creation of the new Big Ten league of Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota slated for 2013, Anastos saw the dissolution of the CCHA on the horizon.

"I am excited about returning to my alma mater to lead the Spartan hockey program to national prominence," said Anastos, pegged at No. 46 on The Hockey News' list of 100 People of Power and Influence in the sport. "My 13 years as CCHA Commissioner have been special. I am proud of what we have collectively built in this league."

From Tigers to Lions

Penn State wasted no time in recruiting the erudite and successful Guy Gadowsky from behind the Princeton Tigers' bench to lead the Nittany Lions in their collective effort to build a new program in central Pennsylvania.

Gadowsky led Princeton to two of its only three appearances in postseason play in his seven years, as well as its first-ever ECACHL league title in 2008.

"Guy is the perfect choice for Penn State," said university president Graham Spanier in a statement. "He has been immensely successful, is a great motivator, knows how to build programs and has strong academic values."

"The new Pegula Ice Arena, combined with the most passionate student body and alumni in the world, is going ensure an incredible atmosphere at Penn State hockey games," Gadowsky told NHL.com. "I think it is going to be a blast to be a part of. Big Ten Hockey Conference is going to be great for college hockey and it will be an honor to be a part of."

What are Gadowsky's major challenges in competing with many of the most storied programs in NCAA history in a brand new league?

"It will obviously be a process and I am not naive to the strength of the hockey programs in the Big Ten," he said. "Initially, it is very important that we judge our growth on the areas we can control within our own environment. There will be several 'next levels' that will be judged outside of plain wins and losses, such as staying positive and staying the course in our initial years. Achieving that first strong performance and first win will be a milestone signifying the work and effort of a lot of people, many of whom have been working for this much longer than myself."

Before they go toe to toe with the heavy hitters, Penn State will play a club schedule this season and an independent D-I schedule in 2012-13.

Gadowsky's former assistant, Bob Prier, will take over as the No. 1 man at Princeton.

"I have inherited a very strong program with a culture of strong work ethic and high goals," Prier told NHL.com. "The next step is to build off of Princeton's momentum and raise the bar even more. Some major challenges will be to stay healthy throughout the season, and to have the ability to adjust to new systems early in the season with limited practice time in order to start off with immediate success."
 
The six Ivy teams do not begin play until Nov. 1 due to league by-laws.

Other major changes include the departure of last year's Spencer Penrose winner as Coach of the Year, Nate Leaman, who left Union in the ECACHL to join Hockey East as the new coach at Providence College, replacing Tim Army.

Union was 26–10–4 under Leaman last season, going 14–1–1 in its final 16 regular-season games to win the league title and earn the school's first-ever NCAA tournament bid.

In another change in the ECACHL, Casey Jones replaces George Roll at Clarkson.

"The goal is to get our development model in place so each and every year we can compete for ECAC championships," said Jones, an assistant under Roll. "In turn, that will make us a factor in the national picture. Clarkson is fortunate to be situated in a very fertile recruiting market. One of the biggest challenges will be to keep the top young players from going major junior."

Back in Hockey East, two schools welcome former players back to lead their alma maters from behind the bench.

When Greg Cronin accepted an assistant coaching position with the Maple Leafs under Ron Wilson, the Northeastern Huskies tabbed Penguins scout Jim Madigan to replace him behind the bench. Elsewhere, the UMass-Lowell River Hawks replaced Blaise MacDonald with Norm Bazin.

"UMass-Lowell is my alma mater and it has a special place in my heart," Bazin said, echoing Madigan's sentiments, "and Hockey East is one of the premier conferences in the country."

NHL.com's Top 10

1. Michigan 4-0-0
2. Boston College 3-1-0
3. Denver 1-1-0
4. Colorado College 2-0-0
5. North Dakota 2-1-1
6. Notre Dame 2-2-0
7. Boston University 2-1-0
8. Yale 0-0-0
9. Minnesota 4-0-0
10. Miami 2-2-0
Like Cronin at Northeastern, Jeff Blashill also took the opportunity to join an NHL team when he left Western Michigan to join Mike Babcock's crew behind the Red Wings' bench.

Andy Murray -- who has head coaching experience of his own in the NHL -- replaced Blashill. The Broncos are eyeing a change in conferences as part of the major shakeup scheduled for 2013 when they move to the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

The final stop on the coaching carousel was at Michigan Tech where long-time Michigan associate head coach, Mel Pearson, replaced Jamie Russell.

"Michigan Tech was the school that gave me my first chance not only as a player but as a coach," said Pearson, "and I'm looking forward to working with the university, alumni and community in bringing back the winning tradition."

Quote of the Day

Because of the way they play and their skill set I don't think they're fourth-line players, so in my mind I'm looking at one of those guys I'll have to move over to the wing.

— Capitals coach Barry Trotz on his four-player battle for second-line center