On The Subject Of Hot Seats; Fall Prep Leagues; WNEC Hockey

Three years ago Toot Cahoon was named in a “10 Questions for ’07” feature as needing a good showing otherwise he may find himself on the hot seat at year’s end.  Of course Cahoon went on to coach probably the greatest season in UMass history and led the program to its first ever NCAA tournament berth, getting within one game of the Frozen Four.  Yet, just a few short years later he has found himself in exactly that same spot again, needing to show that UMass can indeed compete in Hockey East and that he’s the man to facilitate just that.

Now no one can deny that the high points of Cahoon’s career at UMass are worthy of much praise; the NCAA win in Rochester, a #5 ranking in 2008, three trips to the Garden, and one lightning fast Jimmy Howard glove save away from a Hockey East title.  But between those highs have been inexcusable lows.  In the two years following the NCAA appearance UMass has had a below .500 record.  The #5 ranking came after UMass captured the Lightning College Classic tournament and had a record of 11-3-5 at the time.  They went on to finish that season a dismal 5-13-1.  Despite the three trips to the conference semis the team has still finished 7th or worse in conference in four of the last seven years.  Despite all the success the program has had under Cahoon he still has a record at the school that is 41 games under .500.  Even if you throw out those first two years when he was left with little to work with by predecessor Joe Mallen his record is still 9 games under .500.  In his reign UMass has had back to back winning seasons just once and on average has finished 7th in the conference.

These Jekyll and Hyde results are certainly having an effect on the fanbase.  Frustration and rumblings are coming even from those supporters closest to the team.  I think it’s tough for many to admit their faith may be wavering in Cahoon because he’s such an upstanding person who has been engaging with the fans, graduated his players, and done things the right way.  But it does appear that followers are getting discouraged with where the program is headed.  Perhaps Toot has no one to blame but himself.  What he has accomplished at times with the program has given us all a taste of what it’s like to be a formidable hockey program in the country.  And we like it and we want more of it.

Toot came to Amherst with a monumental task; take a perpetually losing program with hardly any DI tradition and show that it was possible to win against the titans of eastern college hockey.  And I think he’s done that.  UMass hockey is now able to attract quality players, has been in the top 15 in the country in attendance, and even has a couple banners hanging in the Mullins Center.  The question now is can the program take the next step beyond showing that type of success isn’t just possible but can be done on a regular basis.  Can UMass become a regular contender not only for home ice every year but for the Hockey East crown?  And if so, is Toot Cahoon the man to lead UMass hockey onward to that next daunting challenge?  I think the 2009-2010 season will shed a little light on that answer.  And I sincerely hope the answer is yes.

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Speaking of Toot according to the athletic department he’ll be in the UMass tent at the Big E in West Springfield tonight between 6 and 7pm.  I lived in Western Mass for almost 15 years and never made it to the Big E once.  I’m not sure how that happened.

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Both Conor Sheary and Mike Pereira will be playing in fall prep leagues in the next few weeks, albeit different ones.  Since prep schools have much shorter seasons than the various junior leagues around the country these fall leagues give prep players a chance to hone their skills and perhaps impress their scouts before getting into the regular season.  Pereira will be playing for Team East in the Western New England Fall Prep Elite Hockey League (you know it’s bad when even the acronym would be a lot to type).  Games will be played at Trinity College in Hartford.  Sheary in the meantime is playing for Team West in the New England Fall Prep League.  Those games will be played at Babson College in Wellesley.

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Assistant coach Red Gendron gets a mention in this article from the Springfield Republican on the new hockey coach at WNEC.

2 Comments

  1. Random thought- do you think Toot knows he needs a really good showing this year and that’s why the out of conference schedule is, well, weaker than some would like?

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    • It’s certainly occurred to me that the need for a winning season may be the reasoning behind this year’s schedule. But in Cahoon’s defense, he could be in the same situation next year (I believe his contract is through 2012) and what’s leaked so far of next season’s schedule is the opposite of this one. The Badger tournament, a trip to Minnesota, and playing a probable high profile opponent at Madison Square Garden. So this year may not have been just about getting the easy Ws.

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