College women's hockey: Bulldogs hire Harvard's Crowell to replace Miller as coach
Despite representing a prestigious school such as Harvard, Maura Crowell said it was still tough to get a Minnesota recruit to come east and play for the Crimson.
Recruiting Minnesotans shouldn’t be a problem any longer for Crowell after she was introduced Friday at Amsoil Arena as the next head coach of the Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey program. The 34-year-old from Mansfield, Mass., replaces five-time NCAA champion head coach Shannon Miller.
Crowell spent the past five seasons as Harvard’s associate head coach, interim head coach and assistant coach. She was awarded a five-year deal that starts at $140,000 for the 2015-16 season and jumps $7,500 each year before hitting $170,000 in 2019-2020.
“Duluth playing in the WCHA is very attractive. It’s the toughest league in the country and it seemed like a no-brainer,” Crowell said. “This is one of the best jobs in the country and I couldn’t be more happy to work in a city that loves hockey as much as Duluth does.
“I’m psyched to be in state and recruiting in Minnesota. A lot of the girls want to stay home and I can’t blame them because it’s the state of hockey.”
Crowell beat out fellow finalists Mike Sisti — who coached Mercyhurst to more than 400 victories, four Frozen Fours and the 2008 NCAA Division I title game — as well as longtime UMD assistant coach Laura Schuler, who had worked under Miller since 2009.
When UMD began searching for a replacement for Miller on March 9, UMD athletic director Josh Berlo said the position would be posted for 30 days, but he was forced to accelerate the process once he “saw how deep and strong that pool was.”
There also were openings at WCHA rivals Minnesota State-Mankato and Ohio State that he didn’t want to lose a candidate to either, he said.
“We scrutinized three exceptional finalists and it was tough to get to three finalists,” Berlo said. “Ultimately we found the one that was the best fit for our university, our student-athletes and our community.”
Crowell spent her first three seasons at Harvard as an assistant coach before serving as interim head coach in 2013-14 while Katey Stone coached the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Upon Stone’s return, Crowell was promoted to associate head coach while also assuming the role of recruiting coordinator.
“We always go after the best players and that’s going to be my philosophy here, too,” Crowell said. “We’re going to go after the best and hopefully we can get some of them. I think the state is ripe with plenty of talent for everybody to go around.”
Prior to coaching at Harvard, Crowell was the head coach at Division III Massachusetts-Boston for five seasons, going 73-53-4. She was also an assistant at the 2010 USA Hockey women’s national festival in Lake Placid, N.Y., an assistant coach at Connecticut College and St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass.
She played and lettered four years at Colgate from 1999-2002 and was a part of the Raiders’ program when it made the transition from Division III to Division I in 2001. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in German from Colgate.
“Maura has a very strong work ethic and I think that’s one of the main things,” Stone said via phone interview. “People who get into coaching, it’s a lifestyle and they have got to be willing to put the time into it to get the job done, and she’ll do that.”
The Bulldogs are set to return three juniors, six sophomores and eight freshman from a 2014-15 squad that finished fourth in the WCHA at 14-10-4 and 20-12-5 overall. UMD’s season ended in the first round of the WCHA playoffs after losing at home to Bemidji State. It was the second time in three years UMD missed the league’s championship weekend.
Meanwhile, the Crimson reached the NCAA championship game where it lost 4-1 to Minnesota at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. Harvard finished 27-6-3, tied Clarkson for the Eastern College Athletic Conference regular-season title, won another Ivy League crown and beat Cornell for the ECAC tournament title.
That team featured a pair of senior forwards from Minnesota in Hillary Crowe of Eden Prairie and Samantha Reber of Edina. Crowe tallied 10 goals while Reber was third in scoring for Harvard with seven goals and a team-high 25 assists.
“It wasn’t always easy, but we did have some special Minnesotans out there and we love those kids,” Crowell said. “I’m just looking forward to being able to recruit a whole lot more of them here.”