June 7, 2008
Former Bulldog named assistant
By Kevin Pates
Brett Larson loved the idea of coming back home,
returning to his alma mater and promoting the team he’s still
passionate about — Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey.
So when an assistant coaching position opened
in March, the former UMD captain applied for the job and officially
joined Scott Sandelin’s staff Thursday night, agreeing to
a one-year renewable contract. He’ll follow Lee Davidson,
who resigned after six seasons.
Larson, 35, played 11 professional years as a
defenseman, including two as a player-coach with the San Diego Gulls
of the former West Coast Hockey League (1999-2001). His last season
was in 2005-06 in England. For the past year he’s lived in
Woodbury, Minn., and sold pharmaceuticals for Abbott Laboratories,
and the past three months has coached an AAA midget all-star team
of 12- and13-year-olds. He has not coached collegiately.
“I have a broad hockey experience and hope
to bring a fresh viewpoint to UMD,” Larson said Thursday night.
“Hockey is my passion, especially UMD hockey. I’ve been
a fan since I was 10, when I was around UMD’s locker room
all the time, and [former player] Dan Fishback gave me a stick that
I brought back to the Merritt rink.
“When I realized I wasn’t going to
move up in professional hockey, I was offered a chance to do some
work as an assistant in player personnel and recruiting. Now I’d
like to help recruit good players here and bring our program back
to the top of college hockey.”
Sandelin said he got to know his future assistant
coach when Larson worked at UMD hockey camps a few years ago, and
believes he has the makings of a good college coach.
“Brett is a quality guy, who had a great
work ethic as a player and been a captain for a number of teams.
I think he has the ability to communicate with our players and spread
his enthusiasm,” said Sandelin. “He’ll be a great
representative of UMD.”
Larson, a former Duluth Denfeld High School star,
was a sophomore in 1992-93 when UMD won the Western Collegiate Hockey
Association regular-season title and advanced to the NCAA Division
I tournament. He was a member of the WCHA all-academic team as a
senior in 1994-95 and in a four-year career had 24 goals and 43
assists for 67 points in 133 games.
He played professionally for the Madison Monsters,
Louisville Riverfrogs, San Diego Gulls, Long Beach Ice Dogs, Utah
Grizzlies, Las Vegas Thunder, and internationally in Germany, Denmark
and England, taking part in 543 games. At Denfeld, he played in
two state tournaments under coach Bill Vukonich.
“I was UMD’s sixth or seventh defensemen
when we won the WCHA title, but I found out that when you’re
on the ice, even if you have a small role, it’s important
and you have to take pride in that,” Larson said. “I
realized the things that it took to make us a good team, and those
are some of the things I hope to bring to the program now.
“I know how close UMD is to being back in
the top half of the WCHA, and I believe it can be an exciting time
working to get there.”
Larson, who is married to Duluth native Kelly
Zaudtke, said he saw a handful of UMD games last season, when the
Bulldogs finished 13-17-6 and placed eighth in the 10-team WCHA.
UMD finished in the top half of the league most recently in 2003-04.
Sandelin is 122-160-37 in eight seasons. His top assistant during
that time has been Steve Rohlik.
The other finalists for the UMD assistant job
were Coleraine native Chris Tok, an assistant at Michigan Tech since
2006, and former St. Cloud State assistant Brad Willner, head coach
of Alexandria (Minn.) in the North American Hockey League the past