By Kim Wrona
NIU Hockey has added two new assistant coaches to the DII Huskies’ coaching staff for the 2015-16 season: John Luciana and Billy Lyne.
Luciana and Lyne are taking over for former assistant coach Brian Pickett, who has stepped down from his position with the club, and are joining returning head coach Chuck Rinaldo behind the bench.
Both new coaches are former Huskies and have played in the ACHA for several years.
“Adding Billy and John will be great for our team and the future of our program,” Rinaldo said. “Both of these guys have extensive first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be a Huskie and they are well aware of what it takes to be successful in our league and in the ACHA. Their dedication to the program and desire to continue the winning traditions of NIU hockey will fit in perfectly with what we need this season.”
“Adding both Billy and Luciana to the team adds eight years of combined experience at the ACHA DI and DII levels,” general manager Ian Kalanges said.
Luciana spent time playing at Ohio University’s ACHA DI program and also played junior hockey for the Chicago Force before playing for the DII Huskies during the 2014-15 season.
“Luciana has been around higher levels of hockey his whole life and knows the game very well,” Kalanges said. “He will be a huge asset to the coaching staff. He is the type of guy that can get a whole room to listen to what he has to say. He is a natural leader that will step in right away and make his presence known.”
“This season I feel like there are numerous opportunities stemming from the coaching scene,” Luciana said. “I am excited to learn from Coach Rinaldo as his assistant and no longer a player. The Northern Illinois Hockey program already has solid characteristics in place, and I look forward to contributing to the upcoming season. I’m positive this will be a strong season with having played with many of the returning players.”
Additionally, Lyne manned the DII Huskies’ blue line from 2009 until 2013.
“Billy has a tremendous amount of hockey knowledge and, more specifically, defense that he will be able to pass down to our players,” Kalanges said. “When Billy was playing for NIU, he was always giving the other players pointers and knows the game of hockey very well.”
“I’m excited for the season to get started,” Lyne said. “The team has been taking big steps forward for many years now and I’m happy I can be a part of growing the organization.”
Adding two former Huskies behind the bench will be a big asset to helping the team succeed during the 2015-16 season.
“Their playing experience at NIU will make the transition much easier for everyone,” Rinaldo said. “They should be able to step right in and make an immediate impact for us.”
“One reason we go after former NIU players for assistant coaching roles [is] they are familiar with the program and what we as a whole organization are trying to accomplish,” Kalanges said. “When a player is done with their career at NIU, they don’t really leave. So many of our past alumni are actively still in the loop of NIU Hockey. Bringing both Billy and Luciana back is like they both never left.”
Luciana and Lyne are both going into their first years of coaching. They know they are going to have to make some adjustments from their playing days to being behind the bench.
“I think the biggest struggle will be earning the respect as a coach,” Luciana said. “As a player, it was easy to prove my dedication by the effort in practice, games and off-ice preparation. But as a coach, a lot of the work is behind the scenes. Now, my performance is judged by how the guys on the ice perform.”
“I think the biggest adjustment I’ll have to make is that you need to watch the game differently behind the bench rather than playing,” Lyne said. “There is more strategy going on with matching lines and helping out your own players with tweaks and suggestions, rather than just going out there and playing myself.”
Overall, they are excited to get the new season started.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the development of a ‘winning’ team,” Luciana said. “As a player, you always want to be the best, from day one of camp until the last game of the season. But from a coach’s point of view, I feel that every ‘team’ has to start somewhere, whether that’s the top or bottom; it doesn’t matter to me. I just hope that as a team, we finish better than we began.”
“I’m really looking forward to helping grow NIU Hockey further,” Lyne said. “Last season was greatly successful, but the end definitely left a sour taste with coming up just one goal short in the league championship and just missing nationals. I’m hoping that I can help the team get over those last few hurdles and bring home some championships.”