Hockey Tabs Osiecki For Coaching Post

Ohio State's first new men's hockey coach in 15 years boasts a resume that the Buckeyes hope will make him a success. The hiring of Mark Osiecki, who spent the last six years as an assistant at Wisconsin, was announced by Ohio State on Saturday, and caught up with the new head man and hockey lifer.

When looking for a new men's hockey coach, the Ohio State athletic department was hoping to find someone with the right amount of experience.

The man they found, Wisconsin assistant Mark Osiecki, has plenty of it.

A former NHL player, junior coach, college assistant and USA hockey assistant, Osiecki boasted a résumé that beat out around 60 applicants for the job to replace John Markell, the school announced Saturday afternoon.

"When you look at his history and who he's worked with, he has in incredible passion for the game and he's proven that he can be successful at every level," said OSU associate athletic director Chris Schneider, who oversees the hockey program.

For Osiecki, 42, the new job sounds as though it is a both a natural fit and a dream come true after spending an entire life in the game.

"Any time you become a head coach, I think you're extremely excited, but I think you take it to a different level when you have the opportunity to coach at a program and an athletic department like Ohio State," he told BSB. "It's the Big Ten conference. Obviously, I know what their athletic department is all about. I can't even use any type of words to express how excited I am to be there."

Osiecki had returned to Wisconsin to meet with family and UW officials following Friday's interview, after which he accepted the job. With college coaching meetings over the next few days, he hopes to settle in town within the next few weeks and get things going. Near the top of the list will be choosing assistant coaches, with Osiecki saying he will consider Markell's assistants in OSU alums Casey Jones and JB Bittner.

At Ohio State, he'll be at a university and a town similar to that of Wisconsin but with a rather different hockey tradition. The Badgers boast a history of hockey excellence, especially in recent years. This past season, Osiecki and the Badgers made the national championship game and boasted the nation's best player in Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion, and in his six-year tenure UW made four NCAA tournaments and won the 2006 national title.

His hope is to build on the promise possessed by Ohio State, which has made only one Frozen Four in 1998 under Markell. The last five years have produced a single NCAA tournament bid, though Markell had six in his 15 full seasons.

"I think they've shown what they can do," he said. "I think some of the past things that they've accomplished, getting into the NCAA tournament, I think that's been established. I think that's something we would want to build on. I think the potential is there."

He also said he was familiar with and impressed with the way Ohio State's athletic department operates.

"The one thing that really stood out to me being at Wisconsin for six years, our athletic department talked nonstop about how things are run at Ohio State – how everybody communicated well with each other and it being a first-class organization," Osiecki said. "You hear that for six years from a Big Ten school to another Big Ten school, when that happens you're pretty excited for it right away."

While Ohio State did a tremendous job recruiting Osiecki to campus, he'll hope to reciprocate in turn on his recruiting trail. At UW, he was thought to be one of the top recruiters in the country and also coached the team's defensive units, which were often among the best in the nation. This year, the Badgers were 15th in the country allowing 2.58 goals per game.

Osiecki played three years collegiately at Wisconsin from 1988-90, notching 43 points in 46 games in his final campaign as the Badgers won the national title with him as an assistant captain. His professional career included 93 NHL games, three goals and 11 assists with Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Minnesota before he retired and became an assistant at college power North Dakota.

After a year serving under legendary college coach Dean Blais, Osiecki moved on to spend seven years as coach and general manager of the Junior A United States Hockey League's Green Bay Gamblers. While he was there Green Bay won four straight division titles from 1999-2002 and the Gamblers won the 2000 Clark Cup as league champions. The USHL is one of the top feeder junior leagues into college hockey.

That experience also gave him the chance to hone his management abilities.

"I would say that anyone who wants to get into head coaching, I think you should be a head coach in the USHL," he said. "I think it's a tremendous advantage. You're doing everything from top to bottom, whether it's the billet families to travel to sharpening skates to ordering equipment to renting buses. It was great to be able to utilize your time management skills and really hone those in."

From there, he moved on to Wisconsin, where he spent six years under the tutelage of another top college coach in Mike Eaves.

"Both (Blais and Eavs) have coached at the highest level and played at the highest level, so to work for those guys, it only bodies well for different things you're going to learn," he said. "Now we have to take those as coaches and apply them, but certainly they were great sounding boards and great friends I'm going to be able to stay in touch with."

He's also been an assistant at the United States junior national team level, most recently assisting Blais on the American squad that won the World Junior Championships in January. Those experiences in total gave Schneider confidence Osiecki will be ready to take over despite his not having been a head coach at the Division I level.

"I think he's absolutely ready for this step," Schneider said. "His experience being the head coach and GM at Green Bay shows that he has the experiences to manage a staff and manage people. Speaking with everybody that knows him, there's not a doubt in my mind he's going to be able to build a very strong staff.

Osiecki is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and his father, Tom, is a longtime college and youth coach and NHL scout who last year assisted the University of Minnesota women's team.

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