Updated: 2:56 p.m. | Posted: 1:48 p.m.
University of Minnesota Men's Hockey head coach Don Lucia is stepping down after 19 years leading the Golden Gophers.
Lucia, 59, won two national championships early in his tenure with Minnesota, but a decline in ticket sales had increased pressure for Lucia to repeat his earlier successes in order to stay on as head coach.
Two weeks ago, the Gophers looked to be a lock to make the NCAA tournament, but a series of underdog wins in last weekend's conference championships forced Minnesota out of this year's national tournament, and led to today's announcement.
According to officials at the university, Lucia will stay on as a special assistant to the athletics director through the end of his contract in June of 2019, following approval by Board of Regents.
In a statement released by the University, Athletic director Mark Coyle said that he and Lucia agreed it was time for a change. "Gopher Hockey is not just a college hockey program, it's a cultural institution in the state of Minnesota, built on more than 90 years of success and tradition. Few have contributed as much to that legacy as Don," said Coyle. "He knows how much I appreciate everything he has accomplished in his 19 years as head coach, but he and I also agree that it's time for someone else to lead our program... I can't thank him enough for what he's contributed to the success of Gopher Hockey." Lucia thanked his staff and players in the statement.
"I came to Minnesota because of the tradition, and I hoped to add to the tradition when I left. I am proud of the 14 banners that have been added to the rafters of 3M Arena at Mariucci. I am forever grateful to all the coaches, staff and most importantly the players who have worked so hard to accomplish this over the years," said Lucia.
"Most importantly to me, we did it the right way. Our players all graduate and have always represented themselves to the high standards of Gopher Hockey on and off the ice. It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to be the head hockey coach at the University of Minnesota."
During his time at Minnesota, Lucia lead the team to a record of 457 -247-73. The 457 wins is the most of any coach in Gopher hockey history.
The Gopher's men's head coaching job will be one of the most sought after jobs in the country this off-season. A few names that have been speculated as possible replacements include the head coach of the current #1 ranked St Cloud State University, Bob Motzko. Also, former Gopher's assistant coach Grant Potulny, who left last season to become the head coach at Northern Michigan. Also current associate head coach Mike Guentzel.