When Scott Sandelin accepted his first collegiate head coaching job with the University of Minnesota Duluth shortly after the new millennium, his primary mission was to make the Bulldogs a perennial force on the national collegiate hockey landscape and ultimately bring home the program's first NCAA championship.
On April 9, 2011, Sandelin and the Bulldogs, before a sold-out Xcel Energy Center crowd of over 19,000, toppled the University of Michigan 3-2 in overtime to cap off a season for the ages. For the first time in its nearly seven-decade history, UMD was indeed college hockey's top 'Dog!
But the Bulldogs have been anything but one-hit wonders. Over the past eight seasons, they've gone 165-117-38 while making five NCAA Tournament appearances (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016), posting five National Collegiate Hockey Conference/Western Collegiate Hockey Association upper-division finishes and piecing together five, 21-win campaigns. During the course of the 2011-12 season, UMD set a club record by going unbeaten in 17 straight games and was ranked first in both major weekly polls (USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey) for a program-best nine consecutive weeks.
Sandelin, the 2003-04 Spencer Penrose Award winner (American Hockey Coaches Association NCAA I Coach of the Year) and the runnerup for that honor four winters ago, enters the 2016-17 season -- his 17th as the Bulldogs' bench boss -- sporting a 287-277-75 overall record and having helped produce two Hobey Baker Memorial Award winners (Jack Connolly in 2011-12 and Junior Lessard in 2003-04), six NCAA I All-Americans (including three-time pick Jack Connolly), and 18 All-NCHC/WCHA honorees. He's also seen some 16 of his UMD pupils go on to do time in the National Hockey League.
In March 2009, Sandelin's Bulldogs laid claim to the WCHA playoff title (becoming, in the process, the first play-in game participant in the 17-year history of the WCHA Final Five to win it all) before advancing all the way to the NCAA West Regional Final. Four seasons earlier, UMD was named the preseason league favorite in the Grand Forks Herald WCHA Coaches Poll for the first time ever and, in mid-October of that year, occupied the No. 1 spot in a national poll (uscho.com and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine) for the first time in 15 years. Over the Christmas Holidays that winter, Sandelin displayed his coaching wares on the international stage as the head coach of Team USA at the 2004 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. He worked in an assistant coaching capacity at that same event in 2012.
The 51-year old Sandelin (8/8/64) turned UMD into a NCAA Frozen Four participant for the first time in 21146nearly a generation in 2003-04 while shepherding the Bulldogs to their most victories (they were 28-13-4 in all outings) and highest WCHA finish (second place on a 19-7-2 mark) since the 1992-93 season. UMD also sported the nation's second-highest scoring team, and, during the course of the year, strung together a school-record 14-game unbeaten streak. For his efforts, he was chosen the WCHA Coach of the Year as well as the national coach of the year by both insidecollegehockey.com and uscho.com.
Sandelin's 2002-03 Bulldogs racked up their best overall mark (22-15-5) in a decade while experiencing the greatest one-year turnaround of any WCHA club. UMD ended that season as one of country's hottest clubs, going unbeaten in 12 of its final 16 games (11-4-1) and capturing third place at the WCHA Final Five playoff championship. One year earlier, he directed the Bulldogs to a 13-24-1 record in all games -- nearly doubling the number of victories from the previous season (7-28-4). In addition to amassing its most goals in five years, UMD also ranked fifth in the nation in power play scores (47) that season.
Prior to officially becoming the Bulldogs' 12th head coach on March 31, 2000, Sandelin served with the University of North Dakota coaching staff for six years, including the last three as an associate head coach. During his tenure in Grand Forks, North Dakota laid claim to two NCAA titles (1996-97 and 1999-2000), three WCHA regular season championships (1996-99), two WCHA playoff crowns (1996-97 and 1999-2000) and earned four straight berths in the NCAA tournament (1996-2000). His primary responsibilities with the Fighting Sioux included handling the team's recruiting coordinator and academic advisor duties, and assisting with all aspects of practice and game preparation.
Sandelin spent the 1993-94 season as the head coach of the Fargo-Moorhead Junior Kings of the Junior Elite Hockey League after working in that same capacity (and doubling as general manager) the previous winter with the American Hockey Association's Fargo-Moorhead Express.
Born and raised in Hibbing, Minn., Sandelin capped off his four-year playing career at North Dakota in 1985-86 by being named one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. He captained the club that season and also was an All-WCHA first team pick and an NCAA I All-American second team selection. Named North Dakota's Most Valuable Player as a senior after amassing a career-high 38 points in 40 games, Sandelin went on to play seven years of professional hockey, including NHL stints with the Montreal Canadiens (1986-88), Philadelphia Flyers (1990-91) and Minnesota North Stars (1991-92). The second round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1982 NHL draft (40th selection overall), he was credited with four assists in 25 lifetime NHL outings as a nagging back injury forced him to retire prematurely from the professional ranks following the 1991-92 season. Sandelin, one of just three current NCHC coaches with NHL playing experience, also skated for Team U.S.A. at the 1989 Goodwill Games, the 1986 International Ice Hocky Federation Championships, and the 1984 IIHF Junior Championships.
Sandelin, who graduated from North Dakota in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in marketing, was the 2013 recipient of North Dakota's Tom Clifford Award (recognizing North Dakota alumni who serve with distinction as athletic coaches at the high school or college levels). He resides in Hermantown with his wife, Wendy, and their son, Ryan, and daughter, Katie.