Who's Next? Sweet Sixteen

It has been two weeks since search for a new head coach of Michigan Tech hockey began. Over those weeks Tech Hockey Guide has profiled 16 potential candidates for the opening left by Mel Pearson's departure to Michigan. We are happy to share that we have confirmed that Michigan Tech is currently in the process of conducting on-campus interviews with eight candidates. 

THG is confident that at least six (see update below for list of six) of these semifinalists made our initial list and were among the 16 candidates we profiled. Most of the names will not come as a surprise to anyone, but Athletic Director Suzanne Sanregret did follow through on her promise that ties to Michigan Tech Hockey were not a prerequisite. In case you missed some of our profiles over the last two weeks, here are the sixteen coaches we discussed:

Current/Former Head Coaches:

Current Assistant Coaches:

For now we will call this group of eight semifinalists, because with that large of a group we speculate that there will be a final round of interviews with two or three finalists. What we can say for sure is that three of Mel Pearson's assistants have had interviews in Houghton over the last week. Both current assistant coaches, Gary Shuchuk and Joe Shawhan, were interviewed as part of this process. It's not known how serious a contender either is for the position, but it certainly made sense for Sanregret to start with Pearson's remaining assistants. We also confirmed that former assistant coaches Bill Muckalt and Pat Mikesch earned interviews. Mulitple sources confirmed seeing Muckalt in Houghton last week and he may have been the first person not still on staff to be interviewed in person. Additionally, our sources report that Mikesch will be interviewing sometime this week.

Beyond those four bits of news, we don't have much else to report at this time. It does appear that there may be a wildcard that we missed in our coverage thus far. Stay tuned tomorrow, because if we get confirmation then we will run a profile on "The Wildcard." For now, focus on those we've already profiled. We have more to breakdown as far as our group of 16 goes. Below is a table listing all 16 potential candidates including their age (Age), home state or province (St/Prov), position in college (Pos), college where they played (College), highest level of hockey played (Ceiling), and then relevant experience in various leagues with either assistant coach (A), head coach (H) or both (A/H) listed for each coach.

Candidate Age St/Prov Pos College Ceiling NAHL USHL NCAA ECHL AHL NHL
Bill Muckalt42BCFMichNHLHHA
Damon Whitten40MIFMSUECHLA/H
Ron Rolston50MIFMTUECHLHHAHH
Cam Ellsworth36ONGMTUECHLAA
Joe Shawhan54MIGLSSUNCAAHA
Seth Appert42MNGFSUNCAAA/H
Davis Payne46ONFMTUNHLA/HA/HA/H
Dane Jackson46BCFUNDNHLAA
Keith Fisher39MND--AA
Chris Bergeron46ONFMiaECHLA/H
Gary Shuchuk50ABFWisNHLA
Pat Mikesch44MIFMTUAHLA/HA
Ben Barr35MNFRPINCAAA
Brett Larson44MNDUMDECHLHA
Mark Osiecki48MNDWisNHLHA/H
Todd Knott38MNFBSUNCAAA/HA/HA
Jason Herter46SKDUNDNHLA/HA

The first thing that sticks out is the wide range of ages from the three quinquagenarians (Shawhan, Rolston, and Shuchuk) to the four youngest candidates (Ellsworth, Fisher, Barr, and Knott) that have yet to see the age of 40. The next item that sticks out is that despite the variety of where these guys played college (11 different schools; 12 if you count Fisher playing in Community College), they're all from one of three places: Canada, Michigan or Minnesota.

Beyond that there is a decent distribution by position, all but 10 of the 17 were forwards in college. Six of them made it to the NHL while five never played after college. Davis Payne and Ron Rolston are also huge outliers as far as experience goes. Other than Dane Jackson who was an assistant in the AHL, Payne and Rolston are the only coaches to have plied their craft in the pros. If it wasn't for Rolston's time as the USNTDP coach where that team spent time both in the NAHL and USHL, Rolston would stick out just as much as Payne. The main reason both make the list is their status as alumni that currently don't have a coaching job. Fisher, Ellsworth, Barr, Jackson and Shuchuk have no head coaching experience at any level with Shuchuk and Barr not having any Tier 1 junior experience either. 

All in all, its a pretty diverse group that we've taken the time to analyze in detail. Hopefully in the next few days we'll be able to get a look at the eight candidates who have or will soon make the trek to Houghton to discuss with Sanregret and associates why they should be the one to take over a program that has won 75 games over the past three seasons. That fact alone should be enough to keep the candidates from having too many questions about why Michigan Tech's head coaching position is the right job for them.

One job that is currently open that may have impacted who applied is Ron Rolston's former post, the United States National Team Development Program who posted their head coach opening back on April 11, 2017 after Danton Cole left to take over as head coach at Michigan State. Coaches like Seth Appert, Damon Whitten, and the recently released Billy Powers (former Michigan assistant) could all be interested in that post and who knows, maybe Ron Rolston would like another crack at the position that brought him so much success.

UPDATES: Since this was originally published, we have confirmed that UMD assistant, Jason Herter is one of the 8 semifinalist. We've updated the table above to reflect that and here is a link to our profile on The Wildcard.

We have also confirmed that Ron Rolston is a semifinalist in addition to previously confirmed Bill Muckalt, Joe Shawhan, Gary Shuchuk, Pat Mikesch, and Jason Herter.

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