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Lucia named to coach 2014 U.S. National Junior Team

by Mike G. Morreale

Don Lucia, one of the most successful collegiate coaches for more than a decade at the University of Minnesota, on Saturday was announced as coach of the 2014 United States National Junior Team during a USA Hockey press conference at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Lucia will look to duplicate what 2013 coach Phil Housley accomplished: Lead the Americans to a gold medal on foreign soil. The 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship will be held in Malmo, Sweden. Housley led the United States to its third gold medal in the tournament's history this January in Ufa, Russia.

"I'm so excited to have this opportunity," Lucia said. "Since I got into coaching many years ago, one of the things I had hoped to be able to do is get involved, maybe with an Olympic team or a World Junior team. When offered the opportunity, obviously it was something you're going to jump at."

About 45 players will be invited to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., from Aug. 3-10. The invitees and a complete camp schedule will be announced at a later date.

Don Lucia holds a 623-336-88 record in 26 seasons as an NCAA coach, including six Frozen Four appearances, two National Championships, and a Spencer Penrose Award as the nationa's top collegiate coach in 1994. (Photo: Getty Images)

Lucia, a 26-year veteran who received the Spencer Penrose Award as the nation's top collegiate coach in 1994 and is a three-time Western Collegiate Hockey Association Coach of the Year, has led the Gophers to two national titles, in 2002 and 2003, and his teams have averaged nearly 24 victories per season.

"The kind of hockey Don has coached is probably the biggest intrigue for why Don should be coaching the national junior team," said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey assistant executive director for hockey operations. "He's at a program that plays on the international-size ice, obviously plays high-tempo, up-ice hockey that's exciting for fans and exciting for players."

The United States is seeking its fourth WJC medal in five years, having won gold in 2010 and '13, and bronze in 2011.

The Americans will compete in Group A at the 2014 WJC, with Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany. Group B is Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, Finland and Norway.

The United States defeated Sweden 3-1 in the 2013 WJC gold-medal game Jan. 5 in Ufa to earn its second title in four years. The U.S. team will open 2014 preliminary-round play against the Czech Republic on Dec. 26. On New Year's Eve, the United States will play Canada in the preliminary round.

Lucia's 623 victories rank fourth all-time among active NCAA coaches. He has coached at the University of Minnesota since 1999-2000, and was a camp coach at the 2012 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid.

In 1996, he served as coach of the U.S. Select-16 Team in a series against Finland. In 1995, he was coach of Team West at the United States Olympic Festival in Denver, and later that year served as an assistant for the U.S. Men's Select Team that competed for the Tampere Cup in Finland.

In addition to winning two NCAA championships, Lucia led the Gophers to Frozen Four appearances in 2005 and '12. From 1993-99, he was at the helm of Colorado College and took the team to a pair of Frozen Fours (1996, 1997). Lucia began his head-coaching career in 1987 at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, where he remained until 1993.

"Talking and discussing things, Don was a guy for a long time we've talked about having involvement with the national junior team," Johannson said. "As we got looking into the tournament, being in Malmo, Sweden, looking at the player pool, and trying to determine the right fit for it, I think it became readily apparent for us that Don was the right choice for this team."

Lucia will be assisted on the U.S. National Junior Team by Boston College associate coach Greg Brown, University of Denver assistant David Lassonde, St. Cloud State University coach Bob Motzko, and Yale University assistant Dan Muse.

Motzko was an assistant on each of Lucia's national title winning teams at Minnesota before leaving to take over at his alma mater in 2005. Muse was the video coach for last year's World Junior team that took home the gold, and Lucia said he received glowing reviews about him from Gophers assistant Grant Potulny, who also assisted on the U.S. team in 2013.

Lucia is just another in a line of University of Minnesota coaches synonymous with USA Hockey, including Herb Brooks and Doug Woog. Brooks coached the 1980 Olympic "Miracle on Ice" team to a gold medal in Lake Placid and the 2002 U.S. team to a silver medal in Salt Lake City.

Woog was coach of the U.S. World Junior team in 1985 and an assistant on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984. correspondent Dan Myers contributed to this report.

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