New assistant hockey coach Eric Rud knows exactly what he’s getting into at Colorado College. He can’t wait for what he hopes will be many exciting seasons after a few years away.
“When you see CC hockey from afar, you realize what a special place it is,” he said.
That made coming back an easy choice for the former standout Tigers defenseman.
The hire also spurred fans’ hopes for the 2011-12 season.
Fan excitement kicked into gear when Jaden Schwartz confirmed that he will return for his sophomore year. Long-term hopes were stoked with the announcement of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference starting in fall 2013.
“Since I've been here, this is the most excitement we've had with fans buying (235) new season tickets,” CC assistant athletic director Scott Lowenberg said. “Our fans truly believe this is going to be a special season and they want to be a part of it. We've also had a lot of interest from national TV outlets wanting to televise more of our games this season.”
Rud’s familiar face only adds to the buzz. He was twice voted the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Defensive Player of the Year and earned all-league honors in his final two campaigns at CC, which included a national runner-up finish in 1996.
He played in 168 consecutive games from 1993-97 when the Tigers won WCHA regular-season titles in 1994, 1995 and 1996. He graduated with a psychology degree. His 90 career assists ranks him No. 24 on CC's all-time list.
Coaching at his old school pays off on the recruiting trail.
“When you’ve gone to that school you can truthfully and honestly tell kids what they will go through,” he said.
Rud was an assistant coach at St. Cloud State from 2005-2010, when the Huskies made three NCAA Tournament appearances and four trips to the WCHA Final Five. That success and experience made him a rising star in the coaching ranks and garnered mentions as a possible head coaching candidate at other schools.
He got his coaching start at CC during the 2004-05 season in place of the recuperating Norm Bazin. He now rejoins coach Scott Owens and longtime assistant Joe Bonnett.
“We had so much fun that year,” Rud said of the 2005 Frozen Four run.
Volunteer goaltending coach Terry Kleisinger rounds out an experienced group.
“We are very excited that Eric is returning to Colorado College and joining our staff,” Owens said when the hire was announced last week. “He brings great hockey knowledge and has a positive way of connecting with players. His track record here previously, combined with the experience and success he accumulated at St. Cloud and Green Bay, makes him a perfect addition to our staff.”
This past season at Green Bay, Rud’s Gamblers (41-15-4) gave up a United States Hockey League-low 131 goals and advanced to the finals. He wasn’t planning to leave before Owens contacted him.
“We saw an opportunity to get in one spot and settle,” said Rud, adding that he and his wife want that stability for their kids.
They will move to town by mid-August so their three children – ages 11, 9 and 7 - can begin school. The hope of finishing his career at CC has Rud excited and feeling like he’s back where he belongs.
“I’ve come full circle back to CC hockey,” he said.