USCHO awards: First-year turnaround at Massachusetts-Lowell makes Bazin top coach

The second-best turnaround in NCAA Division I history was worthy of the award as best coach of the year.

Massachusetts-Lowell first-year coach Norm Bazin has been selected USCHO’s coach of the year for the 2011-12 season after leading a 19-game improvement over last season.

The River Hawks won just five games last season before Bazin entered and produced a team that posted a 24-13-1 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996.

Massachusetts-Lowell finished second in Hockey East in the regular season and defeated Miami in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to Union in the East Regional finals.

Bazin also was named Hockey East coach of the year (Bob Kullen Award) as well as the New England Hockey Writers’ Clark Hodder Award, given to New England’s top coach. He was a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award, given by the American Hockey Coaches Association to the top Division I coach.

The Notre Dame de Lourdes, Manitoba, native played his college hockey at Lowell, scoring 68 points in 134 games. After a brief professional career he returned to Lowell as an assistant coach from 1996 to 2000 and spent the next eight seasons as an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Colorado College.

Before returning to Lowell as coach, Bazin was the head coach at Division III Hamilton for three seasons. There, he he was named the NESCAC coach of the year in 2010 and 2011.

Thanks to their turnaround, the River Hawks’ average attendance this season was over 5,000 for the first time in program history, and the school turned a profit on Tsongas Center for the first time.

Bazin also was instrumental in the development of a new training center for the River Hawks, which will open next season.

This is the second season in a row that a first-year coach has won the award. Western Michigan’s Jeff Blashill was named USCHO’s coach of the year for 2010-11.

USCHO’s awards were selected by staff members at the Frozen Four. They also include the All-USCHO teams released Tuesday, the rookie of the year released Wednesday and the player of the year set to be revealed later this week.