Johnson named new UNO assistant coach

Nebraska Omaha head hockey coach Dean Blais announced Tuesday the hiring of Steve Johnson as the Mavericks’ new assistant coach.

Johnson, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant to Bob Motzko at St. Cloud State, takes over in Omaha for Mike Hastings, who recently left UNO to become the new head men’s hockey coach at Minnesota State.

Like Hastings, formerly a longtime head coach with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League, Johnson is very familiar with junior hockey in Nebraska and the midwest region as a whole.

The Grand Forks, N.D. native and University of North Dakota alum led the USHL’s Lincoln Stars to two postseason titles (1996, 2003) and three regular season championships (2000, 2001, 2003).

He later succeeded Blais as head coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force, leading the team to the 2010 Clark Cup (postseason) finals.

“I’m very pleased to have a coach of Steve’s caliber fill the void left by Mike Hastings’ departure,” Blais said in a press release.

“Steve has the ability to be a great recruiter for us, and his on-ice skills as a coach are very strong as shown by his work in both the United States Hockey League and at the college level.  His knowledge and experience will make our team stronger.”

Johnson played under Blais when Blais was an assistant coach himself at UND. Johnson earned All-WCHA and All-America status during his time with the Fighting Sioux, helping UND win the national championship in 1987 and then becoming a Hobey Baker Award finalist in his senior season the following year.

Johnson was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 1987, and, following his time at UND, he played professionally for two seasons with the International Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals and Phoenix Roadrunners.

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