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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published January 16 2013

Grand Forks native thriving on Gophers bench

GRAND FORKS – Don Lucia wishes it was like the old days.

The University of Minnesota hockey coach thinks college hockey should allow for a graduate assistant coaching position, so young, potential coaches can cut their teeth in the profession, just like he did years ago.

But that’s not the case anymore.

So, when Lucia hired Grand Forks native Grant Potulny in 2009 as an assistant coach, it was a gamble.

Potulny had zero coaching experience.

“I think we as coaches always have some players that you look at and say, ‘He would make a great coach some day,’” Lucia said. “(Potulny) was a very good captain – a three-year captain for us. He was a winner. He was a great alum.

“When he was a student on campus, he was always the guy who wanted recruits when they came on their visit. He would show them around campus and sell the university. He was doing that part when he was a student. So, even though he was young and didn’t have experience, I felt he was a guy who could grow into the position.”

That’s exactly what Potulny has done, Lucia says.

Potulny, a former Grand Forks Red River standout, is now in his fourth year as an assistant coach with the Gophers, who have grown a little bit each year he’s been there.

He coaches the forwards, who have helped the Gophers become the No. 1 scoring team in the nation the past two years. Entering this weekend’s series against UND, the Gophers are averaging 3.82 goals per game.

Potulny also does about 60 to 70 percent of the team’s recruiting, which means he’s played a large role in pulling the Gophers out of their rut (missing the NCAA tournament three straight years) to returning to prominence.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald