Updated: April 7, 2014 at 11:32 am
The news of longtime coach Scott Owens' resignation surprised fans, players and coaches alike.
"We were all a little bit surprised," CC junior defenseman Peter Stoykewych said. "We loved playing for him as a coach and had the utmost respect for him. He gave us all an opportunity."
Owens told CC athletic director Ken Ralph of his decision to resign after 15 seasons (324-228-54, .579) following his worst as a coach (7-24-6, .270) this past campaign; the Tigers' first in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Both agreed it was time for him to step down following his annual review.
"I was surprised by the decision," Tigers assistant Eric Rud said. "I am very, very thankful that Scott had the confidence in me to bring me in as an assistant coach at my alma mater."
"We had a lot of success over the past 14 years," CC assistant Joe Bonnett said. "I am proud of the work we've done with kids graduating, players reaching the NHL and the commits we have coming in."
The longtime coach was out of town and did not attend Sunday's team awards banquet. Ralph said Owens was absent to avoid overshadowing the event.
"I can't say I was shocked but it upsets me," longtime fan Ken Rownd said. "I especially enjoyed the kind of players he brought in. That is a tough act to follow."
It did not take long for speculation on Owens' replacement to start. There will be no shortage of interested coaching candidates for one of only two available in the 59-team Division I ranks. The other is the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Lake Superior State.
Names already making the speculation rounds in social media include: Bonnett, Rud, former Denver coach George Gwozdecky, Minnesota assistant Mike Guentzel, former North Dakota associate coach Cary Eades and former DU assistant Derek Lalonde. Gwozdecky recently told The Gazette he was not interested in an opening if it were to arise. Both Bonnett and Rud expressed interest.
"I think this is a great place to coach and play," Rud said. "It's a place I believe in. There are enough positives in place that this could be turned around quickly."
Ralph will be busy during a hiring process expected to last a few weeks.
"We do not want to rush this," he said. "We want to make the right choice."
What others had to say about Owens' resignation
"Best wishes, Coach! For 15 years you've walked one of the toughest lines in college athletics, balancing strong academic performance with quality hockey skills, and always done it with aplomb and panache," Tigers fan Pete Moulton, via Facebook
"It's the right move. Whether he resigned or was fired the CC program needed a change," CC fan Bryan Lynch said via Facebook.
"Holy crap is it going to be weird not seeing Scott Owens when CC comes to town next season," Minnesota-Duluth radio announcer Bruce Ciskie via Twitter.
"As bad as the season was, it can get much worse. Record was terrible but they were playing much better as the season wrapped up. My only hope is they find another coach that will not use this as a steppingstone," Chuck Gruber via Facebook.
"Always enjoyed my interactions with him; all class," North Dakota sports information director Jayson Hajdu via Twitter.