skip navigation

Bench Boss Upheavel

By Loren Nelson, 11/18/21, 3:00AM CST

Share

Season Primer: Offseason coaching carousel spun to the tune of a stunning 30-plus changes, some of them at state championship-winning programs


Former Duluth East coach Mike Randolph, who guided the Greyhounds to state championships in 1995 and 1998, will serve as an assistant coach at St. Thomas Academy this season. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports Media

Last season still in progress when the dominoes started dropping. St. Paul Academy’s Brian Murphy resigned in February, and the coaching carousel has been spinning ever since. 

Two Rivers’ Ted Cheesebrough’s recent departure to accept an assistant coaching job at Hamline University, and former Warriors’ assistant George Awada stepping in to lead the program, represented the 30th-plus coaching change heading into the season.

Most notably included among that that group of 30-plus — one of the largest coaching turnovers in recent history — is Mike Randolph, who guided Duluth East for 32 seasons and won two state championships. Randolph’s 658 career victories rank second all-time among Minnesota coaches. He's working as an assistant coach at St. Thomas Academy this season.

Among other high-profile coaches making their departures were Janne Kivihalme, whose undefeated Lakeville South team lost in overtime to Eden Prairie in the state Class 2A championship and Derrick Brown, who guided St. Cloud Cathedral to the 2019 state Class 1A title.

See the full list of coaching changes below.
 

Coaching Changes entering 2021-22 Season

School 2020-21 Coach 2021-22 Coach Comment
Albert Lea Jason Fornwald Matt Erickson Erickson, a 1995 Albert Lea High School grad, was a varsity assistant for four years and spent seven years coaching in Albert Lea's youth hockey association. Fornwald guided the Tigers for four seasons, compiling a 54-42-5 record. The Tigers went 9-10 last season, losing 9-2 to Dodge County in the Section 1A semifinals. Fornwald previously served as an assistant and head coach for Albert Lea's girls' hockey program.
Austin Jason Merritt Troy Schaefer Schaefer previously coached in Austin's youth hockey system and served as president of the association. Merritt guided the Packers for five seasons, compiling a 27-92-2 record, including last season's 0-16-0 record. A 1990 Austin High School graduate, Merritt was a varsity assistant for four seasons before taking the head coaching position.
Brainerd Dave Aus Howie Borden From 2002-2015, Borden was assistant coach at the junior hockey level. He spent time with the Minnesota Ice Hawks, the Alexandria Blizzard and the Granite City Lumberjacks. He also served as an assistant coach at St. John’s University and Bethel University. Aus guided the Warriors to a 91-81-8 record in his seven seasons. Brainerd went 6-12-1 last season, including a 5-1 loss to St. Michael-Albertville in the Section 8AA quarterfinals. Aus was head coach at Blaine for 14 seasons, leading the Bengals to six consecutive state tournament appearances.
Breckenridge/Wahpeton Evan McCall Adam Wiertzema Wiertzema is a former varsity assistant for the Blades. A Breckenridge native, he played college hockey at Concordia College in Moorhead, graduating in 2016. McCall led the Blades for four seasons, compiling a 35-50-0 record.
Chaska Dave Snuggerud Matt Cooke Cooke, played 16 seasons and 1,046 games in the NHL, including his final two (in 2013-14 and 2014-15) with the Minnesota Wild. Snuggerud coached the Hawks in two stints, the most recent starting in the 2012-13 season. Overall, he compiled a 230-237-20 record in 19 seasons.
Chanhassen Jesse Willis Sean Bloomfield Bloomfield is a former assistant coach under Dave Snuggerud at Chaska and the primary principal at Chaska's Breakaway Academy. Willis guided the Storm for five seasons, compiling a 32-61-4 record.
Duluth East Mike Randolph Steve Pitoscia Pitoscia is a Duluth East alum with 30 years of playing, coaching and volunteering experience. He previously was an assistant coach and scout for the Omaha Lancers hockey club and served as head coach for 16U/18U teams in Omaha. He also has been an assistant coach for the Duluth East and Marshall high school teams and a head coach at the bantam level in Duluth and Cloquet. Randolph is one of the winningest coaches in state history, posting a 658-207-34 record in 33 seasons, all but one of them at Duluth East. He'll serve as an assistant coach at St. Thomas Academy this season.
Eveleth-Gilbert Jeff Torrel No program Torrel guided the Golden Bears for 10 seasons, compiling a 114-124-13 record. Eveleth-Gilbert combined with Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl to form Rock Ridge starting with the 2021-22 season.
Ely Ben Johnson Jake Myers Myers played high school hockey at Hopkins and graduated in 2014. He coached two seasons in Ely's youth hockey system before becoming an assistant varsity coach for the past five years. Johnson led the Timberwolves for six seasons, posting a 35-84-2 record. He was hired to lead the new Rock Ridge program.
Faribault Dean Weasler Dan Pumper Pumper served as a varsity assistant coach for the Falcons for the last 12 years and coached the JV team for three. He played on the Falcons' 1993 state tournament team. Weasler had a record of 110-115-10 record in nine seasons leading the program.
Hastings Adam Welch Matt Klein Klein, a 2000 Hastings graduate, was a multisport athlete in baseball and hockey. He was a scholarship athlete at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he played baseball and hockey. He spent six years as the head girls' hockey coach at Shakopee and six years as an assistant boys' hockey coach in Hastings. Welch went 71-76-5 in his six seasons leading the Raiders, who lost in overtime to Lakeville South in a 2020 section final.
Holy Family Catholic Noel Rahn Erik Westrum Westrum, who starred for Apple Valley when it won the 1996 state championship, previously coached at Southwest Christian/Richfield, a program he helped start in 2017. Westrum compiled a 40-26-2 record leading the Stars' varsity program. Rahn was the architect of Holy Family's rise to a Class 2A power. He went 191-84-7 in 11 seasons.
Kittson County Central Robert Carr Jack Deere Deere, who served as a Bearcats assistant coach last season, played for Kittson Central in the mid-2000s. Carr guided the Bearcats to a 119-113-10 record in 10 seasons.including last season's 12-4-1 mark.
Lakeville South Janne Kivihalme Josh Storm Storm was head coach at Owatonna for the last 10 years. Storm, 39, is a 2000 graduate of Lakeville High School, where he played varsity hockey. He also played hockey and baseball at Bethel University. Owatonna had winning records in nine of Storm’s 10 seasons. The Huskies were 13-5-1 in 2021 and reached the Section 1AA semifinals before losing 2-0 to Lakeville North in a game where North scored both goals in the final three minutes. Kivihalme guided the Cougars to the state tournament in each of his three seasons leading the team, compiling a 56-24-3 record. Lakeville South's lone loss last season came against Eden Prairie in overtime in the state Class 2A championship game.
Little Falls Tony Couture Joey Hanowski Hanowski was the junior varsity head coach for the Brainerd/Little Falls girls' hockey team last season. As a high schooler Hanowski played on Little Falls' 2009 and 2012 state tournament teams. He was also a baseball standout for the Flyers and at Bemidji State. He is a brother of Ben Hanowski, that state's all-time career scoring leader with 405 points. Couture, an International Falls native who played at the University of North Dakota, retired after guiding the Flyers for 28 seasons. He compiled a 426-301-17 record and guided Little Falls to seven state Class 1A tournaments. The Flyers went 14-5-1 last season and reached the state semifinals, where they lost 4-1 to Dodge County.
Mankato West Curtis Doell Nate Olsen Olsen, who played for Mankato West, has been a Scarlets assistant coach for the last eight years. He is a Minnesota State graduate. Doell guided the Scarlets for 12 seasons, leading them to the 2016 state Class 1A tournament. He compiled a 178-123-16 record, including last season's 13-5-2 mark and a 4-3 loss to Dodge County in the Section 1 championship game. A West assistant coach from 2000 to 2009, Doell played at UM-Duluth and in the American Hockey League. He took a position as an assistant coach with the New Ulm Steel of the North American 3 Hockey League.
Minnehaha Academy Josh Hoekstra Jeff DeGree DeGree had two stints on the St. Olaf coaching staff. He was also the head coach at Colorado State, where he led the Rams to their first ACHA Division I national tournament. In 2017, DeGree was Coach of the Year in the Western Collegiate Hockey League. He also served in various leadership roles with the Minneapolis (Storm) Youth Hockey Association. Hoekstra coached the Redhawks for four seasons, compiling a 22-73-3 record.
Minnesota River Shea Roehrkasse Chris Miller Miller served as a Bulldogs assistant for the past three years. In all, he's worked in Minnesota River's youth and high school programs for 14 years. Roehrkasse guided Minnesota River to the 2019 state tournament in his six years leading the program. He compiled a 90-55-2 record.
Mounds View Adam Schmidt Garrett Windle Windle was the Mounds View girls' hockey coach for the past two seasons. He previously spent four seasons as an assistant in the Roseville boys' hockey program. Windle played four seasons at Bethel University. Schmidt had a 37-59-3 record in four seasons.
North Shore Andy Fellows Shawn Lundgren Lundgren was a North Shore assistant coach to start last season, and took over as interim coach midway through the season. He serves as the Hockey Director for the Two Harbors Youth Hockey Association. Fellows guided the Storm to a 15-28-0 record in two seasons.
Osseo Kevin Willey David Prokop Prokop, a Moorhead native who played for Concordia College, was an assistant coach at Osseo last season. Previously he served as an assistant for the Hamiline University men's team and St. Cloud State University women's team. He also has had stints as an assistant high school coach at Farmington and Buffalo. Willey coached the Orioles for 13 seasons, compiling a 112-210-12 record. Osseo went 6-12-1 last season, losing 4-1 to Blaine in the Section 5AA quarterfinals.
Owatonna Josh Storm David Fromm Fromm was the head coach at Minneapolis South from 1996-200 and most recently served as the head coach of the Colorado Thunderbirds AAA U18 team from 2011 until 2020. He coached multiple teams to state and national tournament appearances. Storm guided the Huskies for 10 seasons, compiling a 144-100-13 record in that span.
Park Rapids Derek Ricke Bill Moore Moore, who previously served as head coach at Tartan, South St. Paul and Woodbury high schools, is a Woodbury High School graduate who played collegiately at Saint Mary's University. He was head coach at Saint Mary's for 12 years before stepping down in 2019. Ricke guided the Panthers to a 24-69-2 record in four seasons leading the program.
Redwood Valley Joe Stremcha Denny Spielmann Spielmann, who previously served as coach of the Redwood Valley girls' hockey program, most recently had been coaching in the Redwood Area Youth Hockey association. Stremcha, serving his second stint as the Cardinals' head coach, posted a 61-83-0 record in six seasons.
Rochester John Marshall Jay Ness Matt Erredge Erredge has been an assistant coach for the Rockets for 11 seasons after coaching the Dodge County boys for five seasons and the DC girls' team before that. Ness guided the Rockets for 10 seasons, posting a 94-145-9 record.
Rock Ridge No program Ben Johnson Johnson, a Duluth native, led the Timberwolves for six seasons, posting a 35-84-2 record. He was hired to lead the new Rock Ridge program. He previously served as an assistant coach at Proctor and Duluth East.
Roseau Andy Lundbohm Greg Lund Lund is a 1988 Roseau High School graduate. He was a three-year letterwinner and earned All-Mariucci Conference honors as a senior. Named the 14th coach in Roseau history, he was the VFW Bantam AA head coach in 2020-21. Lundbohm coached the Rams for 12 seasons, compiling a 198-117-11 record in that span.
St. Cloud Cathedral Derrick Brown Robbie Stocker Stocker, a St. Cloud Cathedral alum, was an assistant coach for the Crusaders last season and previously served as an assistant coach at Delano. As a multisport athlete at Cathedral before graduating in 2010, he played in three state soccer tournaments, three state golf tournaments and two state hockey tournaments. Brown guided the Crusaders to the 2019 state Class 1A championship. In his six seasons leading the program he compiled a 124-41-4 record that included four section championships. Cathedral went 8-10-0 last season, losing to Sartell-St. Stephen in the Section 6A quarterfinals. Brown took over the Cathedral program entering the 2015-16 seasons after spending six seasons at Luverne. He has a 245-77-9 overall record.
St. Louis Park Andrew Sackrison Ben Horsch Horsch was an assistant coach for the Spartans last season before being elevated to head coach for the team's final three games, all losses, including a 6-0 Section 4A quarterfinal setback against Mahtomedi. He played high school hockey and football at Hastings and previously served as an assistant coach at Eastview and junior varsity head coach at Lakeville South. Sackrison led the Orioles to a 34-31-2 record in his three seasons.
St. Paul Academy Brian Murphy/Ben Horsch Bill McClellan McClellan was an assistant at Holy Angels for the last four years. He also has coached at Tartan, Park, Rosemount, East Ridge and Minnehaha Academy high schools. He has coached with USA Hockey since 2004. Horsch, who took over for Murphy late last season, is the new head coach at St. Louis Park. Murphy, in his first season leading the Spartans, resigned on Feb. 26 after compiling a 3-10-0 record. Murphy had previously served as Bantam AA coach in Minnetonka (winning back-to-back state titles in 2015 and 2016), associate head coach at Cretin-Derham Hall and head coach at Totino-Grace. He has a 12-26-2 career record.
Southwest Christian/Richfield Erik Westrum Nick Heiberg Heiberg served as a co-associate head coach for the Stars last season as they went 11-6-0 and lost to Orono 5-4 in a section quarterfinal. The Minnetonka native spent 11 years coaching in the Minnetonka youth hockey system. Westrum, a former standout player at Apple Valley and Minnesota, previously coached at Southwest Christian/Richfield, a program he helped start in 2017. In three seasons at the varsity level, Westrum compiled a 40-26-2 record leading the Stars.
Spring Lake Park Addison DeBoer Connor Gagnon/Chris Lueck Gagnon and Lueck served as assistant coaches for the Panthers last season. Gagnon is a 2016 Spring Lake Park graduate. Lueck played at Mercyhurst College. DeBoer coached the Panthers for two seasons, compiling a 12-33-0 record, including last season's 6-13-0 mark.
Totino-Grace Adam Sharratt/Tim Parkos Tim Parkos Parkos had served as co-head coach with Sharatt for two seasons, when the Eagles compiled a 19-24-3 record. He takes over as the solo head coach after Sharratt's departure to coach youth hockey in the Elk River system. Sharratt served as the Eagles head coach, and then co-head coach, for four seasons. He compiled a 38-32-3 record.
Two Rivers Ted Cheesebrough George Awada A Two Rivers graduate, Awada led the Warriors to the 1993 state tourney and was named to the all-tournament team. After two seasons with the St. Paul Vulcans, he played at St. Cloud State. Awada signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils and played with their AHL affiliate in Albany. He played several seasons in the ECHL before playing in Europe. After his 12-year professional career, Awada was most recently an assistant at Two Rivers. Cheesebrough, who went 10-35-2 in his two seasons leading the Warriors, resigned to take an assistant coaching position at Hamline.
Virginia/Mt. Iron-Buhl Cale Finseth No program Finseth guided the Blue Devils to a 10-9-1 record last season and 27-42-4 record overall in his three seasons leading the program. Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl combined with Eveleth-Gilbert form Rock Ridge starting with the 2021-22 season.
Waconia Andy Mair Anthony Reynolds Reynolds played high school hockey at Delano and attended St. John's University. While in college he got his start coaching in the Sartell youth hockey program. More recently he coached at the youth level in Delano. Mair led the Wildcats for three seasons, compiling a 23-43-2 record including last season's 3-13-0 mark.

More than 400 interviews
 

Hundreds of vintage photos
 

Chapter for every year
 

Top 10 Charts
 

Dozens of vignettes

Statistical Leaders

Tourney Time Teasers

  • O What a Relief

  • By David La Vaque 06/09/2020, 5:45pm CDT
  • Hill-Murray's Seamus Regan delighted father, brother by accomplishing what they couldn't
  • Read More
  • Danger Zone

  • By Loren Nelson 03/04/2020, 2:30pm CST
  • Goalies were once allowed to skate to opposite end — and did so at their own peril
  • Read More
  • The Heartbreak Kid

  • By David La Vaque 01/24/2020, 10:30am CST
  • Rob McClanahan and undefeated Mounds View dealt bitter state quarterfinal loss in 1976 by Steve Christoff and Richfield
  • Read More

The Full Nelson

  • The Real Hockeytown

  • By Loren Nelson 11/22/2021, 10:30pm CST
  • Season Primer: When Warroad plays, it's always a primetime event, especially in the Warriors' home town
  • Read More
  • Drama Kings

  • By Loren Nelson 11/18/2021, 12:45pm CST
  • Season Primer: The high school futures of Prior Lake stars Will Schumacher and Alex Bump were in doubt much of this fall
  • Read More
  • Law Aching

  • By Loren Nelson 03/24/2021, 1:00am CDT
  • Andover defenseman Kyle Law takes a beating in his two-way, high-danger role
  • Read More
  • Showtime Raiders

  • By Loren Nelson 03/20/2021, 3:30am CDT
  • Freewheeling Cretin-Derham Hall has top-seed credentials, plenty of doubters
  • Read More
  • The Rights and Wrongs

  • By Loren Nelson 02/15/2021, 6:30pm CST
  • Midseason analysis: A look at the Class 2A teams that have surprised, swooned
  • Read More