JP Piche’ had just completed his hockey career at what was then called Mankato State University when he noticed there was a boys’ hockey coaching opening in Mississippi River town of La Crescent.
“I applied for it, and got it,” he said, still sounding surprised 19 years after landing the job.
During his 12-year stint with the Lancers, from 1992-2004, Piche’ brought some much-needed stability, halting the revolving door of head coaches coming and going through the program.
He also learned there was more to coaching than just coaching.
“I know how to deal with parents and, hopefully, with the press,” said Piche’, who grew up in New Brighton and played high school hockey at St. Thomas Academy. “Scheduling, budgets, ordering equipment -- all the little nuances that come with being a head high school coach.”
All those skills will come in handy, as Piche’ was hired on Monday, Oct. 11, as the Lancers’ new head boys’ hockey coach. Again.
And once again, Piche, 42, hopes to bring some stability to a program that has had three head coaches in the three previous seasons. Randy Groth, Andy Klingsporn and, most recently, Denny Hartman, all have taken their turn at guiding one of the smallest small-school programs in the state.
“I tell you, it is not going to be easy,” said Piche’, a La Crescent High School physical education teacher who also coaches the Lancers’ boys soccer team. “We are going to have to work for every little success we get.”
La Crescent is a town of about 5,000 with a high school enrollment of less than 500. The Lancers’ hockey team plays a schedule filled mostly with west-central Wisconsin teams. La Crescent went 7-18-0 last season, including a 14-1 loss to Red Wing in the first round of the Section 1A playoffs.
Piche’, who has been coaching in the La Crescent youth program for the last six seasons, says there are 24 players in the high school program. About a dozen of those players are returning letterwinners.
“I was a little torn not being able to coach my son’s Pee Wee team,” Piche’ said about stepping down from his youth hockey responsibilities. “But it’s a great opportunity. Every day I get a little more excited.”
|School||2009-10 Coach||2010-2011 Coach||Comment|
|Andover||Bill Thoreson/Mark Manney||Mark Manney||After serving as a co-head coach with Thoreson last season, Manney takes over as the lone head coach. Thoreson stepped down to spend more time with his family.|
|Buffalo||Mike MacMillan||Mike MacMillan/Cory Laylin||Laylin, a former St. Cloud Apollo star who went on to play for the University of Minnesota, joins MacMillan as a co-head coach for the Bison. Laylin played professional hockey for 16 seasons in six European countries.|
|Chaska/Chanhassen||Steve Olinger||No program||Chaska and Chanhassen will split into separate programs beginning in 2010-11.|
|Chaska||No program||Mike Johnson||Johnson is a Minnetonka High graduate who played at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He's been the Minnetonka Bantam A coach the past three seasons. Chaska was part of co-operative program with Chanhassen in 2009-10 and coached by Steve Olinger, who will not return to coach either program. Olinger resigned so he could continue to coach in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League.|
|Chanhassen||No program||Chris Wilson||Wilson was an assistant coach under Steve Olinger for the Chaska/Chanhassen co-operative program in 2009-10. Wilson, a 1982 graduate of Minnetonka High, has coached in the Minnetonka and Chaska youth hockey programs for 23 years. He also has served as an assistant baseball coach at Minnetonka. This is his first head coaching position at the high school level.|
|Coon Rapids||Joe Law||Brandon Mileski||Mileski, a Totino-Grace graduate, is a former assistant at Robbinsdale Cooper. He also co-hosts the Beyond the Pond program and prodcues the Common Man show at KFAN. Law, who went 7-46-0 in two seasons, stepped down citing personal reasons.|
|Dodge County||Matt Erredge||Eric Hofmann||Hofmann was the strength and conditioning coach for the Rochester Ice Hawks of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League last season and also runs Performance Training, an e-training business that also conducts speed and agility camps. Erredge resigned after guiding the Wildcats to an 8-16-3 record last season.|
|Holy Family Catholic||Dave Nelson||Noel Rahn||Rahn, who owns Velocity Hockey Center in Eden Prairie, won a state championship with Edina in 1988. He went on to play for Wisconsin and St. Cloud State. Nelson coached at Holy Family Catholic for four seasons, inlcuding two as a co-operative program with Waconia. He plans to work as an assistant coach in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League on a team coached by Reed Larson and Steve Olinger.|
|Hopkins||Chad Nyberg||Justin DeGriselles||DeGriselles, who played at Lakeville and St. Olaf, was a Royals assistant coach the past five seasons. Nyberg resigned in order to move with his family to Willmar after the school year.|
|International Falls||John Prettyman||Mike Bolstad||Bolstad, an International Falls native who played at Providence College, has been heavily involved in the town's youth program. His older brother, Gerry, is the head coach of the Broncos' girls' team. Prettyman, who had previously retired as an elementary school teacher, stepped down after 35 years of coaching in the Broncos' program.|
|Irondale||Jeff Martin||Tadd Tuomie||Tuomie played at Notre Dame and professionally in multiple minor leagues. He has coached in the Irondale Youth Hockey Association and the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. Tuomie is the creator of the Pugi, an oversized puck used as a training aid. Martin resigned after the season and plans to spend more time with his sons (ages 4 and 6) as they start playing at the Mite level.|
|La Crescent||Denny Hartman||JP Piche'||Piche', the Lancers' head coach from 1992-2004, returns for his second stint behind the bench. Piche' has been heavily involved in the La Crescent youth program. He also is the Lancers' boys' soccer coach. Hartman resigned his position and has moved to St. Cloud, where he previously has been involved in the town's youth program. The Lancers went 7-18-0 in Hartman's lone season as head coach.|
|Le Sueur-Henderson/St. Peter||Jeff Christ||Shawn Carlson||Carlson, an elementary school teacher in Belle Plaine, played at Two Harbors and UM-Crookston and was an assistant coach at Alexandria before taking an assistant position with the Bulldogs last season. Christ resigned after adding a track and field coaching position to his duties that already included head cross country coach.|
|Minneapolis||No program||Shawn Reid||A Lakeville native, Reid played at Gustavus Adolphus and was an assistant coach in both the men's and women's programs there. He coached the boys team at St. Marks's (Mass.) the past two seasons. The merger of Minneapolis East and West programs for the 2010-11 season creates one team for all seven of the city's public schools.|
|Minneapolis East||Bill Ross||No program||Ross guided the Samurais to a 9-17-0 record and has said he will apply for the head coaching position for the merged East and West programs.|
|Minneapolis West||Tom Younghans||No program||Younghans guided the Mustangs to a 9-18-0 record and has said he will apply for the head coaching position for the merged East and West programs.|
|Minnehaha Academy||Darin Thompson||John Gould||Gould played for Bloomington Jefferson and Holy Angels in high school and has been coaching multiple age levels in the Tucson, Ariz., area where he most recently was based as a junior scout. Thompson compiled a 15-36-2 record in two seasons.|
|Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake||Ben Monahan||Sheldon Weston||Weston, 47, is a Roseau native who played at St. Cloud State and was involved with the Sauk Rapids hockey program for 25 years -- the last 20 as the high school team's head coach -- before being dismissed this spring. Monahan resigned after one season as head coach to take over the girls' hockey program in Andover.|
|Moose Lake||Sherm Liimatainen||Josh Gamst||Gamst played for the Rebels in the late 1990s and comes from a hockey playing family that includes cousin Brett Hedican, the retired former NHL defenseman from North St. Paul. Liimatainen, 70, guided the Rebels to an 18-8-1 record and the inaugural Two Rivers Conference championship in 2009-10. He officially stepped down in mid-September.|
|Pine City/Rush City||Tim Schlichting||Brett Westbrook||Westbrook, who played at Irondale High and Bethel University, served as the assistant coach at Pine City/Rush City the past five seasons. He served as an assistant coach at Mahtomedi from 1998-2001 and won a Texas state championship as a head coach of Mansfield in 2003. Schlichting resigned after an 8-18-0 season, his fifth leading the program, citing family reasons. The Dragons went 63-67-2 in Schlichting's five seasons as head coach.|
|Princeton||Todd Frederick||Jeff Hanson||Hanson played at Princeton, graduating in 1999, and has been a Tigers assistant coach the last four seasons. Frederick, who guided the Tigers to two state tournament appearances and had a 156-144-14 record in 12 seasons, resigned to spend more time with his family.|
|Red Wing||George Nemanich||Mike Belisle||Belisle served as the Red Wing Bantam A coach last season. He's also been an assistant at the high school level. Just the second coach in the history of Red Wing's program, Nemanich steps down after leading the Wingers to a surprising appearance in the Section 1A title game. He guided Red Wing to the state Class A championship in 1997 to cap an undefeated (28-0-0) season.|
|Redwood Valley||Steve Pacheco||Nate Sunderman||Sunderman, an assistant coach last season, takes over the program after the resignation of Pacheco, who guided the Cardinals to a 17-6-1 record last season. Sunderman, 26, played for Sauk Centre (now called Prairie Centre) and attended St. Cloud State University.|
|Sauk Rapids||Sheldon Weston||Brian McCormack||McCormack is an Alberta native who was a scoring phenom playing for British Columbia junior teams in Victoria and Penticton. He played two seasons during an injury marred career at St. Cloud State and was an assistant coach at River Lakes last season. Weston was dismissed after 20 seasons as the Storm's head coach. In 2000 he led the Sauk Rapids to its only state tournament apperance. The Storm went 14-12-1 last season.|
|Sleepy Eye||Matt Dockter||Rob Tauer||Tauer is a Sleepy Eye native who played in the town's Junior Gold program until he senior season, when he played for New Ulm. Tauer, 29, played junior hockey in Oregon before joining the club team at Iowa State. Dockter resigned in May after a 3-22-0 season guiding the Indians.|
|St. Francis||Tony Hoops||Tyler Schaff||Schaff was an assistant coach in the Saints' girls hockey hockey program the last two seasons. He was a multi-sport athlete at Cambridge High School and St. John's University. Hoops will coach the East Ridge girls' hockey program in 2010-11.|
|St. Paul Academy||Craig Norwich/Joe Dziedzic||Joe Dziedzic||After taking over in midseason on an interim basis in 2009-10, Dziedzic takes the position in a full-season capacity for 2010-11. The former Mr. Hockey at Minneapolis Edison (1990) played for the University of Minnesota and in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins.|
|St. Paul Como Park||Neil Paitich||David Bakken||Bakken, who played at Williams College, served as an assistant head coach at St. Olaf College. He played on the Wright Homes almost 40 teams that won U.S. Pond Hockey Championships Open Division titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Paitich retired after guiding the Cougars to an 11-15-1 record last season, including a 6-0 loss to Hill-Murray in the Section 4AA quarterfinals.|
|St. Paul Highland Park||No program||Tom Doyle||Highland Park has fielded an independent junior varsity team the last two seasons and was part of a co-operative varsity program with St. Paul Como Park in 2009-10. The Scots will be fielding an independent varsity team in 2010-11 for the first time since 1987. Doyle was an assistant coach for Minneapolis East last season.|
|Walker-Hackensack-Akeley||Ben Brovold||No program||Walker, Hackensack and Akeley will join Park Rapids in a co-operative program. Brovold, who guided the Wolves during all three of their seasons as a varsity program, will work as a scout for the Rochester Ice Hawks of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.|
|Worthington||Gary Brandt||Pat Christopherson||Christopherson's hiring was approved at Worthington's July 20 school board meeting. The Jackson city administrator has 14 years of experience coaching youth hockey in Edina and Silver Bay. Brandt resigned in April after leading the Trojans to a 3-18-0 season.|