By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – For the first time in nearly 20 years, the University of Minnesota will have a new men’s hockey coach.

The University announced Tuesday Don Lucia is stepping down as head coach after the Gophers failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. He leaves as the all-time winningest coach in program history, and with two national championships.

So who will be the next coach? Let the speculation the begin. The pool is deep for candidates from both the college and NHL ranks.

One of the first names to be considered will be St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko. His team is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and he is a former assistant to Lucia and the Gophers.

Mike Guentzel has long been seen as the man who deserves this shot. He is a current assistant, he played for the Gophers and has been recruiting here for almost three decades.

Remember Todd Richards? That’s right, there are some pushing for him. The former Gophers player and Minnesota Wild coach is now an assistant in Tampa. He also coached Columbus.

Grant Potulny played on the national championship teams, was an assistant to Lucia and just finished his first year as head coach at Northern Michigan. He knows the Gopher culture, and now has some experience.

Two long shots would be Tom Ward and Trent Klatt. Ward played and coached for the Gophers before taking the head job at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, but has spent the last two years with the Buffalo Sabres

Trent Klatt played for the Gophers and in the NHL, has been a long time scout and coached Grand Rapids High School to a state title last year.

By all indications, it will not take long for Gophers Athletic Director Mark Coyle to have a new head coach in place. It should happen within the next three weeks.

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