Joel Johnson, the interim Team USA women’s hockey coach who helped the Gophers win four NCAA titles as associate head coach since 2010, has been hired to lead the St. Thomas women’s hockey team as it transitions to Division I.
Johnson has been the associate head coach to Brad Frost at Minnesota for the past 11 years. The Tommies, which has been playing the Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will play its first Division I schedule this fall.
“Through our national search that spanned an impressive pool of candidates, it became clear that Joel is the right individual to lead our women’s hockey program, now and into the future,” St. Thomas vice president and athletics director Phil Esten said in a statement released by the school. “He epitomizes what it means to be a Tommie as a relationship-focused servant leader that develops his student-athletes both on and off the ice.”
Tom Palkowski led the Tommies program for the past 14 seasons, going 202-87-36 over the past 12 seasons and two Division III Final Four appearances in the past six.
Johnson joined the Gophers as an assistant coach in 1999, then became the Bethel men’s coach from 2004-10, leading the Royals to their only NCAA tournament appearance, He is currently the interim head coach of the USA Hockey’s national women’s team.
“I have been so impressed first with the overall direction of the University of St. Thomas, and specifically the bold and impressive commitments shown as the department of athletics transitions to Division I status,” Johnson said in a statement. The women’s hockey program has a great foundation of success, and I look forward to building upon that.
“I believe St. Thomas is uniquely positioned to attract and develop the very best student-athletes not only from the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota, but from across North America.”
While at Minnesota, Johnson helped guide the Gophers to six national titles and 11 Frozen Fours. Primarily responsible for the defense, he has coached six WCHA Defensive Players of the Year.
Johnson will be formally introduced at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.