The University of Nebraska at Omaha ended its 23-day search for a new hockey head coach when the university announced this afternoon that Mike Gabinet would take over as the third coach of the UNO hockey program. Does that name sound familiar?
Yes, Gordon Bombay would have been a fun choice, but the reality is UNO landed a fresh coach that has extensive knowledge of the game, and will be a great fit with this young team. UNO athletic director Trev Alberts said in a press conference that not only did the UNO athletic board approve of the hire, but the players also gave him high praise.
“It also was very important to us to get the feedback from the players and to a man, they all endorsed Mike as the kind of coach who is a great teacher and someone who could help our program take the next step,” Alberts said.
Gabinet logged 130 games for UNO from 2000-04 and is currently 10th in school history in scoring with 47 total points as a defenseman. He went on to play eight seasons of professional hockey in the American Hockey League, the ECHL and in Europe.
The former Maverick went back to his native land after his playing days and started coaching in 2012 as an associate coach at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. He was later bumped up to head coach in 2015 and led NAIT to an undefeated season and an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship, and was named ACAC coach of the year his first year as the top dog. The guy is a winner and Alberts agrees.
“We undertook an extensive search, and Mike rose to the top of our candidate pool because of his detailed, comprehensive approach to creating a sustainable culture of excellence,” Alberts said. “He has the passion and understanding of what it means to be a Maverick, and he has the ability to institute the kind of structure and attention to detail that will allow us to be successful in college hockey’s toughest conference.
Gabinet came to Omaha in April of 2016 when he joined the program as an assistant coach. He released a statement following his hire stating his appreciation of the school and the hockey program.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to be the head coach of my alma mater and excited to build on what’s been established here by Mike Kemp and Dean Blais,” Gabinet said. “I came to Omaha last year because of my passion for this program and the great experience I had here as a student-athlete.”
The new head coach will fill the shoes of the former eight-year head coach Dean Blais. Blais took UNO to its first Frozen Four in 2015 and aided in turning the hockey program as the focus of UNO athletics. Associate athletic director and former UNO hockey head coach Mike Kemp is eager to have a young mind help mentor UNO’s student-athletes of the game.
“It is a great moment for a program like ours to have an alumnus take over as its head coach,” Kemp said. “I have known Mike since he was a junior player in Canada, and I always admired him as a character person who was a great leader and someone who cared about his teammates. As a player, he analyzed what we did and made respectful suggestions. He was a student of the game, even as a student-athlete.
Though hockey season has ended for UNO, Gabinet is eager to get his team focused for next season.
“I’m amazed by how far UNO has come since my playing days and I’m excited about where we’re going,” Gabinet said.