Generally, there are two ways to win coach of the year awards.
No. 1 is by coaching the best team. Since the head coach is responsible for roster construction, development and game day coaching, the one who gets their team to the top of the standings is a good place to start.
No. 2 is by being the team that most exceeds preseason expectations. That coach is viewed as getting the most out of the players.
In the National Collegiate Hockey Conference this season, both No. 1 and No. 2 were the same guy: UND head coach Brad Berry.
So, it was no surprise Thursday afternoon when Berry won his second NCHC Herb Brooks Coach of the Year award.
Berry also won it in 2016, when he led UND to the Penrose Cup as NCHC regular season champions and the NCAA national championship in his first year as head coach.
Berry joins former St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko as the only two-time winners in the seven-year-old league. UND's Dave Hakstol also won it in 2015.
Berry, in his fifth year as head coach, already has earned national coach of the year honors from USCHO and College Hockey News. By virtue of being named conference coach of the year, Berry also will be a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award as the top Division-I coach. No UND coach has won that honor since Dean Blais in 2001.
UND won the Penrose Cup for the third time in six years, beating out preseason favorite Minnesota Duluth, Denver and Western Michigan. The Fighting Hawks finished three points ahead of the Bulldogs atop the standings.
UND vastly outperformed preseason expectations.
The Fighting Hawks were picked to finish fourth in the preseason media poll and jumped three spots. No other team jumped more than one spot ahead of where it was predicted to finish in the preseason poll.
UND also was the No. 1 team nationally in the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to select and seed the 16-team NCAA tournament field, when the college hockey season was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Berry, along with assistant coaches Dane Jackson and Karl Goehring, helped bring the Fighting Hawks back to national prominence after missing the NCAA tournament in 2018 and 2019.
He made several changes that added up to one of the most successful seasons in program history.
Berry brought Goehring aboard as a full-time assistant coach. He added Jason Ulmer as a volunteer assist. He brought aboard a graduate transfer, Westin Michaud from Colorado College, for the first time in program history. He made smaller changes, too, like moving practices to mornings.
They all seemed to click.
UND jumped out to a 14-1-2 record during the first half of the season and finished 26-5-4 overall. The Fighting Hawks finished with the fourth-best winning percentage in school history, only behind the 1987 and 2016 NCAA national championship teams and the 1999 Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship squad.
The Fighting Hawks also set the program record for best home season ever. They went 18-1 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
After not winning a single major NCHC honor last season, UND brought home several this year: coach of the year, forward of the year (Jordan Kawaguchi), three-star winner (Kawaguchi), defensive defenseman of the year (Colton Poolman) and rookie of the year (Shane Pinto).
NCHC Herb Brooks Coach of the Year winners
2019-20 -- Brad Berry, North Dakota
2018-19 -- Brett Larson, St. Cloud State
2017-18 -- Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State
2016-17 -- Andy Murray, Western Michigan
2015-16 -- Brad Berry, North Dakota
2014-15 -- Dave Hakstol, North Dakota
2013-14 -- Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State