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Lucia takes break from Minnesota to coach U.S. team

by Dan Myers

MINNEAPOLIS -- With the United States National Junior Team selection camp officially underway, coach Don Lucia has handed over the keys of the one of the top-ranked collegiate hockey program to his assistant coaches.

With Lucia occupied by this week's camp and the World Junior Championship beginning Dec. 26, the University of Minnesota men's hockey team -- ranked No. 2 in the country -- has been left in the capable hands of assistant coaches Mike Guentzel and Grant Potulny.

"We came back from Michigan State [Dec. 8] and I told the guys, 'I'm turning it over to Coach Guentzel now,'" Lucia said. "[Minnesota] had a couple days of light practice, but I didn't even go on the ice. I just tried to stay away from the office as much as I could."

Guentzel, the Gophers' associate head coach, will be the de-facto head man while Lucia is away with the U.S team. A former Gopher captain himself and long-time assistant coach under Lucia and his predecessor, Doug Woog, Guentzel has spent all but three of the last 19 years on-staff at Minnesota.

Potulny is also a former captain and is in his fifth season as an assistant on Lucia's staff.

"Mike and Grant will take over and they're both experienced guys," Lucia said. "Mike's coached his own teams for a lot of years in the USHL, so I don't look at that as any big deal. It'll probably be a breath of fresh air for our assistant coaches and our team as well. They'll do a great job. I'm not worried about that at all."

The Gophers' game schedule is quiet until early January, which allowed Lucia to spend quality time this week with his wife, Joyce.

"Make amends with my wife because I'm going to be gone for her birthday and Christmas, the double whammy," Lucia said.

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