By David McCoy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Here’s a sentence we haven’t said in 19 years: The Gophers officially have a new men’s hockey coach.

After 13 years leading St. Cloud State, Bob Motzko was introduced as Don Lucia’s successor Thursday afternoon. As for what Gophers fans can expect from him?

“I fully understand what’s in front of me,” Motzko said.

He grew up in Austin. Helped them win two national titles in his four years as an assistant. If there’s anyone who understands Gophers hockey, and everything that comes with the job, it’s Bob Motzko.

“I might be off by a coach here but I think every coach going back to Glen Sonmor has played for a national championship. Pretty powerful program,” Motzko said.

Of course, the landscape of college hockey is quite a bit different than when Motzko was last here. The Gophers are in a different conference now. Just about everybody is. And the net result is that, it’s made the job harder.

“Probably in the 70s and 80s there were, on a given year, 8-10 teams that really had a legitimate chance to win a national title. And that 8 or 10 might rotate. Well today, there were 20 teams this year that legitimately had a shot to win a national title. And that’s pretty healthy. And we have to embrace that. The competition has gotten stronger,” Motzko said.

And yet, parity aside, the expectation — and question — from the fan base will always be can he return them to their former level of prominence?

“We have a fan base that is hungry and dying to do good things, with a proud tradition, and so I don’t think there’s any reason to think we can’t compete at a high level. And that’s why we brought Bob here,” Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle said. “I talk about Kentucky basketball. I had seven years around that program and Minnesota hockey’s in the same breath. And Bob gets that and understands that.”

“I’m gonna embrace this, I love this state. I love living here and I love hockey,” Motzko said. “I have a new challenge, and it’s time to get to work here.”

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