Former Ice Lions coach Matt Morrow won't be an assistant with the Tier III Idaho Jr. Steelheads this season after all - instead, he's made a right turn on the map and a step up in tier and will join the NAHL's Soo Eagles, where he will serve as the top assistant to Eagles head coach/general manager Bruno Bragagnolo.
Morrow, of course, joined PSU's ACHA Division 2 team as an assistant coach in 2011-2012 before succeeding Josh Hand as head coach for 2012-2013. The Ice Lions record with him on the staff was impressive: 57-9-1 (27-6-1 during his year in charge), a pair of appearances at the ACHA National Tournament, a pair of MACHA North regular season championships and one league playoff title. The University of Miami graduate was at Penn State while earning his MBA, then decided to make coaching his vocation. Initially, he joined the Jr. Steelheads as a full-time assistant back in May, but things began to change when Morrow attended an Eagles tryout camp in Pittsburgh.
"I told Bruno that I wanted to give coaching a shot as a career opportunity and he mentioned to me that the Eagles were going to be adding to their staff. After a lengthy process, talking to both Bruno and (Eagles owner) Ron Lavin, they offered me the job and I accepted it," said Morrow.Prior to PSU, Morrow assisted former NHLer Peter Worrell with Florida Atlantic University and North Broward Prep. On the other side of things, PSU has already filled his vacancy with Ryan Behnken, who guided the Ice Lions to within one win of nationals in 2010-2011.
"I'm excited to be moving up to the Soo and getting an opportunity to coach in the North American Hockey League and with a reputable organization like the Eagles," Morrow added. "I talked to people who I know about Bruno and the Soo Eagles and all I heard were good things."
Bragagnolo said both Morrow and Sawruk "come to us very highly-recommended by several people who are credible and respected within the hockey world. Both Matt and Alex have good hockey backgrounds and we consider ourselves fortunate to be in the position to add them to our coaching staff."
The Soo Eagles, based in Sault Ste. Marie, MI, are the latest incarnation of Junior A hockey in an area that has had quite a bit of it over the last 50 years, primarily in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The present team was born in 2008 and won the 2011 NOJHL championship before jumping to the NAHL in 2012-2013. In the new league, Soo ran off a 41-14-5 regular season record and defeated PSU freshman Ricky DeRosa's Port Huron Fighting Falcons in a divisional semifinal series before dropping three straight to Jamestown in the subsequent playoff round.
Morrow is not alone as someone connected to Penn State behind a bench in the NAHL, a league that includes the second-season Johnstown Tomahawks. Former Icers goaltender Geoff Beauparlant was named head coach of the Kenai River Brown Bears in July.