Citing a desire to move closer to his family, UA hockey coach Sean Hogan has resigned after three seasons and accepted the head coaching job at Ohio University, the Arizona club program said Tuesday.
Hogan, who went 45-66 with the Wildcats after taking over for Leo Golembiewski in 2011, helped facilitate a move last season to the six-team Western Collegiate Hockey League.
While the team posted a middling 17-24 record in 2013-14 against stiff Division I club competition, Arizona achieved many milestones that had eluded it in the previous decade.
Despite a lack of consistent ice time for practice at Tucson Convention Center, the Wildcats defeated Arizona State for the first time in 37 games and earned a playoff berth, the program’s first since 2006.
But for Hogan, the team’s positive trajectory was no match for family — and ice — time.
“I’m from Detroit, so it’s not too far from there,” Hogan said. “Ultimately, being close to where I grew up, my brother and sister, parents, nieces and nephews weighed into it. But Ohio is an elite-level program, and I’m trying to improve myself.”
Hogan inherited a program that was in a relative drought after an ultra-successful 12-year stretch in the 1990s and early 2000s, during which the team finished with a sub-.800 record just twice. Since going 24-6 in 2002-03, however, the Wildcats have won more than 20 games twice — and not since 2007-08 — and haven’t finished with above a .500 record since 2008-09.
Hogan’s challenge was to return the Wildcats to competitiveness, and he did so by scheduling some of the top programs in the country. Arizona played 28 games against ranked opponents. The results were shaky — the Wildcats went 7-21 against ranked teams — but high points included a pair of wins over then-No. 3 Oklahoma in mid-October, a home upset of then-No. 1 Minot State in early-November and the highest of the highs, a 2-1 win at top-ranked Arizona State on Feb. 1.
“A lot of the credit goes to the assistant coaches and the players — they definitely worked extremely hard to bring the team back to a national level of competition.
“We were able to compete at a high level; we beat a lot of good teams my final year there. We beat Arizona State. But the most important thing — the thing I’ll miss the most — is the people there. Great people to work with. Great place to be.”
Hogan’s struggle was getting the Wildcats to play with consistency even without constant practice, as the team often had to practice nearly two hours away in Chandler, when the TCC arena was otherwise occupied.
Arizona won three straight just once, in late-October, but later in the season, the team was unable to gain any traction. Back-to-back wins over ranked teams in mid-January were followed by three straight losses. The Wildcats came off the win over ASU only to lose to unranked Colorado State five days later.
“The biggest challenge we had during my time, and it will be the biggest challenge for whoever takes over, is the inconsistent ice situation,” Hogan said. “We’d go on long stretches of wins because we had a lot of ice. But we lost three, four games in a row because we didn’t have the practice.”
Hogan said the Wildcats were able to come together, however, and he’ll take lessons from this season with him to Ohio.
“What I learned most with all the adversity, if you can build the most cohesive team and you can focus on getting better that day, you can really get through a lot,” Hogan said.