YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Phantoms have tabbed experienced assistant coach Michael Zucker to join their coaching staff, head coach and general manager Anthony Noreen announced today. Zucker, who spent last season as an assistant coach for the North American Hockey League runner-up Wentachee Wild, joins the Brad Patterson on Noreen’s staff, filling the vacancy left with Rob Rassey’s departure to Harvard.
Zucker, 37, brings more than a decade of coaching experience that has included stints at the NCAA Division I level, the USHL and Canadian Major Junior hockey.
“Michael Zucker is a guy who has a wealth of knowledge and wealth of experience, and just like Rob, he’s a guy who’s hungry to do it,” Noreen said. “He wants to be a hockey coach and that to me is just as important as anything else. Along with the experience and knowledge, the passion is something that needs to be on equal footing and that was something that stuck out about ‘Zucks.’”
Zucker served under veteran junior coach Bliss Littler last season at Wentachee, and helped lead the Wild to a 39-15-6 (84 points) record and a NAHL Western Conference regular season and playoff championship. He spent the two previous seasons as an associate head coach for the Omaha Lancers, posting a combined 72-38-10 (154 points) record and consecutive playoff appearances in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Prior to joining the Lancers, Zucker, a native of Morganville, N.J., spent two seasons as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Denver, under the guidance of head coach George Gwozdecky. A two-time national champion and one of the winningest coaches in NCAA Division I hockey history, Gwozdecky was recently named an assistant coach for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
In two seasons with Denver, Zucker’s teams went a combined 50-22-9, captured the 2009 Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship and earned No. 1 seeds at the NCAA men’s hockey Tournament in both 2009 and 2010.
Before joining the Pioneers staff Zucker spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. There he served under former NHL head coach Kevin Constantine and helped the Silvertips capture the Scotty Munro Trophy for the best record in the WHL (54-15-1-2, 111 points) during the 2006-07 season.
Over the past eight seasons, Zucker has coached 26 NHL draft picks – including five first-rounders – as well as two Hobey Baker finalists and three NCAA All-Americans. In addition, he has had the opportunity to coach with Noreen at the USA Hockey Summer Selects Festival in Rochester, N.Y.
“I really got a chance to know him last summer at the U.S. Selects Festival and worked very closely with him,” Noreen said. “He’s worked with some great coaches … Look at some of the winningest coaches in hockey period and those are the guys that ‘Zucks’ has had the chance to work under and learn from.”
A 1997 University of Colorado graduate, Zucker will assume many of the duties shared by Rassey, including working with the Phantoms’ forwards and special teams units, scouting and player recruiting and video breakdown.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)