Gopher Hockey assistant coach Grant Potulny was named the new head coach of the Northern Michigan Wildcats on Tuesday morning. The Gopher alum had spent the last eight seasons as an assistant to Don Lucia for the Gophers.
Grant is very deserving of the opportunity to be the next head coach at Northern Michigan University,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “He’s had a tremendous career at the ‘U’ as a player and as a coach, and it’s been enjoyable to watch him grow. There’s no question in my mind that he’s ready to be a head coach. Grant’s a great family man, and he and his family will be a tremendous asset in their move to Marquette.”
Potulny worked mainly with the Minnesota forwards and the power play in his tenure behind the Gopher bench. He also played a large part in the Gophers recruiting efforts. In Potulny’s eight seasons as a Gopher assistant, Minnesota won six consecutive regular season conference championships, two in the WCHA and four in the Big Ten. The Gophers made it to the Frozen Four twice, and appeared in the 2014 NCAA Championship Game. Eleven players that played during Potulny’s time as a Gopher coach have played in the NHL.
Part of Potulny’s growth as a coach has been his experience with the US Junior National Team. He was an assistant coach in both 2013 and 2017 for the US squad. Both teams brought home gold medals.
He now will take over a Northern Michigan team that went 13-22-4 in 2016-17 and finished in 8th place in the WCHA. The Wildcats last made the NCAA Tournament in 2010. He will have the services of rising junior goalie Atte Tolvanen who tied the NCAA record with five consecutive shutouts last season for the Wildcats.
Minnesota will put on a search for Potulny’s replacement. Two potential alums who are already with the program are potential replacements. Corey Millen served as an undergraduate assistant coach last season. He was one of the best offensive players to ever play for the Gophers and currently ranks third all time in goals and points. Millen also has additional coaching experience as he was the head coach of the Minnesota Wilderness in the NAHL for three seasons.
Another potential replacement would be former Gopher Ben Gordon. Gordon was the Director of Operations for the Gophers last season. Minnesota could also look outside the current program.