In need of a hockey coach, Paul and Charlie Skjodt returned to a strategy that has worked well in the past -- get a top assistant from a prominent college program.
Kyle Wallack, to be announced today as the Indiana Ice's coach, has been an associate coach and top recruiter at Yale for five years. He has come to Indianapolis to recruit tier one junior players, and saw how Jeff Blashill went from an assistant at Miami of Ohio to winning Ice coach to coach at Western Michigan.
"It's obviously a path that opened a lot of eyes and an avenue you didn't expect," Wallack, 34, said of Blashill. "He paved the way for others."
Blashill won the Clark Cup in his first season with the Ice in 2008-09, then took the team back to the U.S. Hockey League's final four in his second year. At WMU, he guided the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996.
Wallack, 35, went to Yale with coach Keith Allain five years ago and they built a program that reached the NCAA Tournament the past three years. The Bulldogs won a school-record 28 games last year, were ranked No. 1 for two months, had college's top offense and defense and lost in the tournament quarterfinals to eventual champion Minnesota Duluth.
"We feel we have the right fit in Kyle," said Charlie Skjodt, who coached the Ice last season then became team president. "Today's game is built on speed and we searched for the right coach who will take advantage of our larger ice surface at Pepsi Coliseum."
Originally from West Hartford, Conn., Wallack is eager to work for the Skjodts, hockey diehards from Toronto. Paul Skjodt, the owner, brought the USHL franchise to town in 2004.
"They're passionate about it and about the city," Wallack said. "Indy has got the big-time city atmosphere and you can still get around."
The first priority is to find talented players. The Ice lost several from this past season, including forward and league Player of the Year Blake Coleman and Defenseman of the Year Nick Mattson.
"I want kids who will go through the wall and who want to make themselves better," Wallack said.
And, in turn, he expects to learn how to become a better coach. Just as Blashill did.
"The Ice want me to develop as a coach, too," he said.