Steel hires Stepan as new head coach

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Steel have a new head coach.

Zach Stepan, who was the assistant coach for the NAHL Chippewa Falls, (Wisc.) Steel last year, was hired Monday to become the New Ulm Steel’s new head coach.

Stepan, 25, replaces Andrew Kolb who resigned after this past season.

“I am pretty excited for it,” Stepan said Monday from Chippewa Falls where he was conducting exit interviews with players. “The most exciting part of this is being able to get the head coaching experience. But I am also excited to be a part of the same organization from the standpoint of the same ownership [that owns Chippewa Falls].”

Stepan, who played center in college, comes to the New Ulm Steel with an impressive hockey resume.

He played high school hockey at Hastings before playing with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League in the 2012-13 season where he scored 32 goals and added 46 assists in 56 games.

He then played four years of D-I hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato. He was then drafted by the Nashville Predators in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL draft.

There, injuries forced him to retire.

“I had too many concussions so the doctors told me I had to quit playing,” he said. “It was hard to quit but at the same time it was pretty miserable going through that last concussion. It was easy not wanting to go through that again.”

Stepan then saw his roles reversed as he went from a playing hockey to coaching it.

“There is a lot of behind the scenes work,” he said. “There is a lot of things that go into putting together a team that you do not necessarily think about as a player. As a player you are thinking about every day process but as a coach you have to think about that and about how to build a foundation for a better future.”

Stepan will also be involved in his first NA3HL draft later this month.

“A lot of that will be [General Manager] Bryant Black, [assistant coach] Nick Campbell and Andrew ]Kolb]. There are few players who I will push for but for the most part they did all of the scouting this year. I will be doing more scouting for New Ulm next season.”

“With the way the game is being played now, you need the speedy skilled forwards — that is a big part of the game. You have to score a lot of goals nowadays to win,” he said. “I am looking for that skill up front and guys who can shut it down on the back end.

Black was happy to bring Stepan on board.

“We loved him at Chippewa as an assistant coach. He did a phenomenal job there,” Black said. “He is a very good hire for us. I am excited that he is on board. He is eager and excited — he is already on the phone calling our returning players and tendered players. He is ready to get going and be part of New Ulm.”