North Dakota Looking Within

North Dakota has decided to start its search for a new head coach within the university, giving interim head coach Dave Hakstol the inside track for the job.

The school had been deciding between whether to start the search internally, or open it nation wide. The job opening has since been posted on the school’s internal web site.

North Dakota recently appointed Hakstol the interim head coach following the departure of Dean Blais to the NHL. Blais coached the Fighting Sioux for 10 years, winning two national championships, before leaving last week to take a job as associate coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Hakstol is a 1992 graduate of North Dakota, who served under Blais the last four years. Blais has endorsed Hakstol for the job on a permanent basis, citing the necessity for stability during the recruiting season.

Scott Sandelin, a former UND assistant who has been the head coach at Minnesota-Duluth the last four seasons, was considered a top candidate if the job was opened nationally. Sandelin won the Penrose Award last season as national Coach of the Year, after taking the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the WCHA and the Frozen Four.

Phil Harmeson, North Dakota faculty representative for athletics and senior associate to university president Charles Kupchella, earlier told the Duluth (Minn.) News-Tribune that opening the position internally would lead to a new head coach in as little as six days.

The job will be posted internally. If a qualified coach cannot be found from within, the process would be opened to everyone. The job will be listed internally for five days.

Harmeson added that Roger Thomas is seeking the advice of Kupchella on the matter, because of the “high profile nature of the position.” However, Kupchella is currently out of the country and not expected to return until July 6.

Sandelin was a captain and Hobey Baker finalist while playing at North Dakota, graduating in 1986.

“It’s all speculation,” Sandelin said to the Tribune. “Obviously, people like to talk whenever something like this comes up, but North Dakota has an interim coach. That may change, that may not, but there is nothing to talk about at this point.”

UMD athletic director Bob Nielson told the paper, “The North Dakota position is one where there is going to be a lot of rumors, and Scott’s name is going to come up because of his connections to North Dakota and the success he has had. Scott and I have talked about the situation, and I’ve relayed to him that he is an important part of our program and our university.”

The other current assistant is Brad Berry, also a 1986 North Dakota graduate, and could be considered.

Other candidates could include former UND assistant Cary Eades, who has been a junior and high school coach and is currently the athletic director and boys hockey coach at Warroad (Minn.) High School; former Fighting Sioux forward Steve Johnson, who is the head coach and general manager of the Lincoln (Neb.) Stars of the USHL; and another former UND assistant, John Marks, who is the head coach and director of hockey operations for the Greenville Grrrowl of the East Coast Hockey League.