UNO is set to add a blue-line specialist to its hockey coaching staff.
Coach Dean Blais said Friday that Alex Todd, the coach at Division III Castleton State College in Vermont, has accepted the assistant coaching position created by the departure of Steve Johnson.
Todd, whose hiring is expected to become official next week, is a former defenseman who will coach that position for the Mavericks.
Blais, Johnson and assistant Troy Jutting are all former forwards.
“That doesn't mean we can't coach that position, but ideally it's better to be able to break down the responsibilities this way,” Blais said.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha changed both of its assistant positions last offseason, with Jutting and Johnson replacing Mike Hastings and Brian Renfrew. In the previous setup, Hastings coached the defensemen.
A Wisconsin native, Todd played one season for Dubuque in the USHL, then four years at Division I Union and three more seasons of minor league hockey.
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He was an assistant for one season at Division III Utica (N.Y.), then began working with USA Hockey and its summer development programs. Blais said UNO senior center Brock Montpetit is among the players Todd has coached.
Todd became the coach at Castleton State in 2005-06 and turned it into a winner — the Spartans were 22-4-1 in 2010-11, 19-7-2 the following year and 15-10-2 this past season.
“I've gotten to know him the last couple of years,” Blais said. “When guys have left, he's shown interest and we've kept in touch. We're pretty lucky to get a guy like him.”
Blais said he initially offered the job to former Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki, whom Blais said agreed to take the job before accepting a position with the Chicago Blackhawks as an assistant coach for Rockford of the American Hockey League.
Todd, 34, inherits a defensive corps that lost highly sought after NHL prospect Andrej Sustr a year early and former NHL draft pick Bryce Aneloski, but returns veterans such as seniors Michael Young and Tony Turgeon, NHL draft picks Jaycob Megna, Nick Seeler and Brian Cooper, and steady junior Brian O'Rourke.
Freshmen Ian Brady and Preston Hodge are also set to join the program.
“I think our defensemen were the strength of our team, although obviously we got great offensive production from some of our forwards,” Blais said. “Losing a guy like Andrej is tough, and certainly Bryce will be missed, but six of our eight are back.”