Joe Shawhan leaves NMU coaching staff for job at Tech

HOUGHTON – The Michigan Tech hockey staff is now complete.

Meanwhile, Northern Michigan and head coach Walt Kyle are looking for a new assistant coach.

The Huskies announced the hiring of assistant coach Joe Shawhan on Monday, to take the place of the departed Damon Whitten, who left for the head coach job at Lake Superior State in April.

Shawhan, a former goaltender with Lake Superior State from 1983-87, had been with Northern Michigan since 2008. Before that, he was an assistant coach at LSSU.

“We had a great pool of candidates for the position,” Tech head coach Mel Pearson said. “Joe just kept coming to the top of the list no matter what way we measured it.”

Shawhan said he was not looking for a move away from Northern Michigan, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“It was an extremely hard decision, I love Northern, love Walt and love the staff. But I just got an outstanding offer to come here,” Shawhan said. “The position I held at Northern wasn’t funded to be a career position – so it was inevitable that I moved on eventually. I thought this was the right time.”

The move hits on many fronts for Pearson. First, Shawhan has a wealth of hockey experience – with 10 years as the head coach of the Soo Indians in the junior NAHL – and fits in well into the culture Pearson is trying to build.

Perhaps more importantly though, Shawhan completes the Husky staff as a former goaltender. Tech had been getting by with volunteer goalie coach Dieter Kochan (and Steve Shields before Kochan), but now has a full-time, day-to-day option for the mercurial goalie position. Pearson emphasized he liked the job Kochan did last season, but with a full-time job outside Tech as a Michigan State Police trooper his hours were limited.

Shawhan’s former charges include Ryan Miller, the current Buffalo Sabres goalie and MVP of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“First and foremost he is just a great person. A guy of high integrity and honor,” Pearson said. “And we were looking for someone for the goaltending position. It is the most important position in hockey, so we wanted someone full time on that. (Assistant coach) Billy (Muckalt) and I have enough experience that we can handle the goalies to a certain point, but Joe has that experience that we don’t. It sort of completes the staff and just solidifies the staff in that position.”

With Whitten on staff, Muckalt would handle recruiting in Western Canada, while Whitten was responsible for the U.S. junior leagues. Pearson said that split would still remain penciled in, but Shawhan’s vast experience allowed for a more diverse approach when needed.

“I’ve recruited every league in North America. What I anticipate will probably happen, is if one us sees a player we like, we will try to get another set of eyes on him and make a judgment from there,” Shawhan added.

Along with Shawhan’s experience and goaltending expertise, Pearson said his personality fit right in with him and Muckalt.

For the long hours coaches put in, that was as important as anything.

“I think that was my main selling point, having the right chemistry with those guys,” Shawhan said. “I’ve got to know Billy really well the last few years and I’ve known Mel since my first stint at Lake State. They do have good chemistry here. You enjoy coming to the office and talking hockey and talking recruits. It’s that fix that you are after every day.”