Anzalone Interviews; Pecknold Emerges As Candidate

FTT is hearing that former Lake Superior State coach Frank Anzalone has interviewed with John McCutcheon for the head coaching position.  Anzalone led the Lakers to the 1988 NCAA National Championship.  He actually had two stints in the Soo.  The first from 1982 to 1990 which was highlighted by that championship and multiple NCAA appearances.  He returned to Lake State in 2001 after multiple stops in the minors.  That second visit didn’t go so well as he failed to get to double digit wins in the four years there.  He has coached at many levels of pros from the AHL to the Central Hockey League where he most recently coached Obi Aduba and the Quad City Mallards.  It’s an interesting candidate but considering that the last time he led a college team to the NCAAs was three years before the rebirth of UMass hockey, he’s probably not a good fit.  Frankly, I’m shocked he’s being considered.

Meanwhile Matt Vautour reported that Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold has emerged as a candidate.  Pecknold has led Bobcat hockey from Division II to their current affiliation in the ECAC.  He’s 9th all-time in wins among active coaches.  However, he has only one NCAA appearance to his name and that came back when Quinnipiac was playing in the MAAC, Atlantic Hockey’s predecessor.  The Quinnipiac blog All Night Wong has some thoughts on Pecknold and the rumors.  Certainly he’s been the face of Quinnipiac hockey since they decided to make a real program out of it, but you have to cringe when you see things like “many locals have been wanting Rand to take a hike for a few years now, claiming he had taken the team as far as they’d go under his control” and “I am starting to question whether Rand is the guy to bring them to the mountain top” and wonder if he’s the right guy for the job.  After all, isn’t this what a lot of UMass fans have been saying about Toot Cahoon?

Dick Baker of the Republican makes the case for Gene Reilly, a Springfield native with assistant coaching experience at Maine, Northeastern, and Harvard.  He’s currently an assistant coach in the Austrian league.  He certainly has extensive experience and I like the local ties, but I wonder if the lack of head coaching experience would put him at a disadvantage.  Worthy of consideration however.

That’s the latest on the coaching front.  I’ve updated my Coaching Candidate page with some of the new names discussed.  I’ve also linked to their page so readers can quickly see for themselves their coaching careers.

The Collegian has a piece with player reactions to Cahoon stepping down.

The AP has this story on brothers Eddie and Tommy Olczyk attending Hurricanes Development Camp.

UConn had their official welcome into Hockey East today.  Coming out of the event College Hockey News’ Scott McLaughlin reported that Hockey East teams will play 20 conference games when Notre Dame joins in 2013-14 and then 22 conference games when the Huskies latch on in 2014-15.  The expansion of non-conference games in coming years with why you’ll start to see UMass play a lot more two game series, like the ones scheduled with Colgate this coming year and Michigan State in the following season.


Up To The Minute 6/28

Nothing concrete to update regarding the coaching search.  I will tell you this, I’ve been hearing lots of information.  Some of it conflicting, some of it collaborating.  Overall my opinion of the search and its ultimate prospects are becoming more and more pessimistic.  Perhaps that’s due to the qualities in a potential coach that I’ve put above the rest.  I personally would want someone young and dynamic with the potential to stay at UMass for an extended period.  I’d like to see someone who has experience bringing in talented recruits to a second tier program (UMass is first tier in my heart, but let’s be honest about how things work in Hockey East).  Rumored candidates who have those qualities are guys like Mark Dennehy and Darren Yopyk.  However, it sounds like the search may be shifting focus to assistants at the more traditional programs.  That means guys like Mike Cavanaugh, already confirmed to have an interview, and perhaps fellow Boston College assistant Greg Brown or Boston University assistant Mike Bavis.  Those guys are obviously well regarded in the college hockey circle and for good reason given their experience.  But can they recruit to UMass?  Can they bring Minutemen hockey from where it is to a regular contender within Hockey East and nationally?  Right now they work from a position of great strength.  It’s unknown if they can get the same results without the BC or BU pin on the lapel of their suit jacket.

Considering the supposed lack of administrative support for the hockey program being the primary reason why the previous coach and the athletic department chose to part ways, I have to say I’m less than enthused about how this coaching search is playing out.  In the wake of the stories surrounding Toot Cahoon’s departure UMass needs to prove beyond a doubt that they’re committed to having a top notch college hockey program.  Instead it sounds like they’re half-assing it.  As usual.

It was a good night for the Minutemen on the isle as the Orange team at Islanders camp won the Development Camp scrimmage tonight.  Mike Pereira scored a goal and Kevin Boyle shutout Team Blue in the second half (not a typo, half).

Conor Allen is playing in the Canucks’ prospect scrimmage as I type.  The Canucks have a good photo gallery of camp on their site.  I see Allen in at least one picture.

Eddie Olcyzk is down in Carolina at Hurricanes camp this week where he’s playing with his brother Tommy, who will be playing for Penn State.

Meanwhile, UNH’s Trevor VanRiemsdyk is an attendee at Philly’s prospect camp.  That must be a little awkward as the Flyers just shipped his brother off to Toronto.

Overall I’m happy at the level of involvement that UMass players are getting in the NHL camps.  However I’m a little surprised that Joel Hanley hasn’t, as of yet, gotten an invite from an NHL team.  I’m especially surprised he didn’t get a call from the nearby Maple Leafs, though a forty five year Stanley Cup drought is probably evidence that they may not be the best at evaluating talent, even if it’s right under their nose.

Congratulations to Jon Quick who has agreed to a 10 year contract extension with the L.A. Kings.  Obviously well-earned. This is probably a good time to announce that my next Beer The Triangle homebrew, an IPA which fermented during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will be heading into the bottle this weekend, will be known as BTT Conn Smythe.  Hopefully it’s worthy of the name.

Coaching Search Update; Michigan State To Visit Mullins; Minutemen At NHL Camps

I don’t have too much to update in terms of the ongoing coaching search.  Everything I’ve heard is that the coaches towards the top of this list, are candidates being actively considered.  But at this point I’ve only be able to confirm Mike Cavanaugh as someone who will be interviewed.  It does appear that there could be a small sliver of hope for luring Merrimack Mark Dennehy to UMass, but there are still significant obstacles to such a thing occurring and honestly I haven’t even heard what his interest level is for such a move.

I also haven’t had any luck finding out what, if any, timeline the school has for filling the position.  I’m still hoping sooner rather than later since we’re so deep into the offseason.  One doesn’t need to look much further than Northeastern last year to see that a prolonged search can do damage to the program.

It sounds like College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni may have an update soon, so I’m looking forward to see what he may have to report.

Looking past the immediate future FTT has learned that the Michigan State Spartans will be playing two games in the Mullins Center during the 2013-14 season.  State will be the highest profile western team to visit Amherst since Denver and Colorado College played there in 2005.  UMass of course has had trouble getting high profile teams from the western conferences to return trips, despite recent games played at Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Getting State into the Mullins, likely the first of the new Big Ten conference teams to visit, will be great for the program and hopefully won’t be the last as UMass will look to bolster it’s non-conference schedule with the number of league games likely decreasing due to expansion.  Outgoing coach Toot Cahoon deserves the credit for getting Sparty to the Bill as he worked hard to get the necessary support from the athletic department to make it happen.   Of course 2013-14 will also mark the first time Notre Dame and UMass meet as part of the new look Hockey East.

In addition to Michigan State we also know that UMass will be participating in the UConn Holiday Classic with Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac in 2013-14.  That season will be UConn’s last before joining Hockey East.

I’ve updated the schedule page with the 2013-14 opponents as well as the dates for this coming season’s matches with Vermont, who released their schedule today.

There was still more news today.

There are no less than four Minutemen currently attending New York Islanders Development Camp this week.  Kevin Boyle, Mike Pereira, Oleg Yevenko, and soon to be freshman K.J. Tiefenwerth are all on the island this week.  It’s impressive to have four players out at NHL Development Camps, much less at the same one.

Conor Allen is out at the Vancouver Canucks camp in the meantime (I know, I know…but us Bruins fans will root for him anyway).

I’ll pass along news of any other Minutemen making it onto prospect camp rosters which are just starting up this week.

Some news to pass along for those Minutemen who have already turned pro.  Justin Braun signed a three year extension with the San Jose Sharks today.  Braun worked his way into the everyday lineup for the Sharks last season, playing 66 games and scoring a couple goals while registering 9 assists.  Matt Irwin, who was an AHL All-Star for the Sharks minor league club in Worcester, was extended an qualifying offer to stay in the Sharks organization.  Unfortunately James Marcou, who has battled concussion and other injury issues since turning pro after his junior year, was not offered and is now an unrestricted free agent.

Cavanaugh To Interview At UMass

Sources have indicated to FTT that Boston College Associated Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh has landed an interview for the UMass head coaching vacancy.  It’s unknown when that interview will take place.  Cavanaugh, Jerry York’s top assistant for years,  of course has been rumored in nearly every coaching opening in the Northeast in recent years and was a finalist for both the Providence and Northeastern jobs last offseason.  Prior to that he interviewed for the positions at both Ohio State and Brown. For whatever reason however Cavanaugh hasn’t been able to secure any of the positions he has pursued.  We’ll see if his luck changes with UMass.  Though Cavanaugh has been at the Heights for a long time, his early career there did not overlap with the time when UMass AD John McCutcheon was an assistant AD there.

Dick Baker of the Republican checks in with his thoughts about Toot Cahoon stepping down and in his view that it’s not a good thing for UMass.  He also mentions that the school will be losing recruits as a result.  I did reach out to Baker for clarification and he said that he’s speculating that UMass will lose recruits (something I believe also) but he doesn’t have any specific information as of yet.  I’ve tried to confirm the status of some of the recruits but haven’t had any luck.  Everyone is still listed on the Heisenberg site, that’s all I have to go on at this point.  Prior to last week’s events I did hear that Zach Doerring, whom I wrote about in March, was due to visit campus this weekend.  I have no idea what the status of that visit is now.  I would guess it would be on hold at this time but with Len Quesnelle still on staff, maybe he will be getting to Amherst anyway.  Doerring was being recruited by Northeastern so it’s likely he’ll be coming out this way regardless.

Jim Montgomery has been rumored to be a potential candidate for the head coaching job.  His Dubuque Fighting Saints had three players taken in the first round of the NHL Draft last night.

Search Committee Named; UConn To Hockey East

The university officially announced their consultatory search committee today to aide Athletic Director John McCutcheon in finding a replacement for Toot Cahoon.  The committee consists of Associate Athletic Director Rocko DeLuca, Pond Club President and former player Mike Merchant, former Assistant Captain Peter Trovato, Isenberg Professor Glenn Wong, Jeff Smith the Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine, and Assistant Vice Chancellor Juan Jarrett.  It’s good to see a couple of former players on the committee.  Merchant can double as a former player and a representative of the Pond Club.  Trovato is the type of person I’d love to see continually come out of the hockey program; hard worker on the ice, active in the community, and, as a recent Harvard Business School grad, setup for success after graduation.  There are few better representatives of the UMass program than him.  Though there has been some serious questions about the athletic department’s attention on the hockey program lately I’m happy to see DeLuca on the committee as he is regularly in attendance for UMass hockey games both home and away and actively engages fans of the team.  I only know of Professor Wong, but his reputation on campus is top notch.  Probably the highest profile faculty member of the high profile Sport Management program, Wong is seen as an expert on college athletics.  I can’t say I’m familiar with Smith or Jarrett.  Originally I was disappointed that a current player was not given a spot on the search committee, as I’ve seen that in past searches around college athletics, but with UMass without an easy choice for captain next year it’s tough to say who that representative should’ve been.

Now how much influence does this committee actually have?  My many years of following college sports tells me they’ll probably matter little in the overall scheme of things, but we’ll see.  At the very least I’m glad there are a number of people who have my confidence who may have at least a small say in the biggest decision facing the program in over a decade.

Nick Canelas of the Collegian says Toot’s time was up.

UConn has officially become the 12th team in Hockey East and will begin play in 2014-15.  I know I haven’t been the biggest advocate of the Huskies joining the league, but at least according to most news stories my biggest concerns are being addressed.  First, UConn will be able go from zero to 18 hockey scholarships plus the equivalent needed on the women’s side to stay Title IX compliant.  Second, though they’ll start out playing all their league games at the cavernous XL Center in Hartford, it does sound like they’re committed to renovating/replacing the pathetic Freitas Ice Forum within their first few years after the jump to get the games back on campus.  Frankly, as long as they do those two things in a reasonable time period I’m fine with this decision.

Lastly, I want to apologize for something I wrote earlier in the week.  In talking about Toot Cahoon’s legacy here at UMass and in an effort to show how far he was able to move the program in a short amount of time I wrote “UMass hockey was god awful when he took over for Joe Mallen in 2000.  The program was so historically bad the fans should’ve been wearing paper bags on their heads. But that would’ve required fans.”   These were flippant remarks to make an exaggerated point and I should’ve been clearer that by no means was I knocking those who played during those years.  I have nothing but respect for those who wore the beloved triangle jerseys during that time.  Those teams mean a lot to me.  I was not really a fan of hockey and knew little of how the game was played when I walked onto campus as a freshman in 1993.  Watching the likes of Rob Bonneau, Tiger Holland, and Brian Regan is how I learned the game of hockey and fell in love with it.  I did not intend to sound like I was taking a shot of those players.  Did those teams lose a lot of games?  Sure did.  Did they play in front of “friends and family” crowds?  Too often.  But that was not because those players did not have talent or didn’t work their asses off representing UMass.  There are a number of factors why UMass did not see much success in the 90s, the primary one being that starting up a program from scratch and entering Hockey East after just one season in existence is akin to trying to assemble a car from nothing more than parts while going 65 MPH in the fast lane of the Mass Pike.  I appreciate what the players of that time were able to accomplish.  I didn’t get to see a lot of wins during my time as a student at UMass but I wouldn’t trade those memories of sitting in the Mullins and cheering on those pioneers of UMass hockey for anything else.  That’s why this blog is Fear The Triangle and not Mauldin’s Marauders, The Quick And The Dead, or something of the like referencing the more recent years of UMass hockey.

Coaching Candidates And Other News

I’ll start with a look around the internet for the up to date news on Coach Toot Cahoon’s departure from UMass and the subsequent coaching search.

Joe Meloni of College Hockey News put together his list of potential coaching candidates for the UMass job which matches what he contributed to my post last night.

The Boston Herald had an interesting article on yesterday’s events.  First, it sounds like Toot plans on retiring from hockey and will likely be staying in the area.  The quotes from McCutcheon are strange because he basically makes it sound like the decision was based on wins and losses, but last I checked Toot had the same record in the middle of March when the season ended as he had at the beginning of this week.  Lastly, John Connolly mentions some potential candidates, some we heard yesterday but some we haven’t yet such as former UMass assistant Bill Gilligan, former UMass assistant Red Gendron, former Boston University assistant Dave Quinn, former Northeastern coach Greg Cronin, and Paul Pearl of Holy Cross.  Some of these are likely legitimate options but others seem like Connolly just throwing names against the wall.

NESN interviewed Jon Quick on the eve of tonight’s NHL Awards in Las Vegas.  Quick talks about his time at UMass, Cahoon’s influence and departure from UMass, former goaltending coach Jim Stewart, and what he plans to do with the Stanley Cup.  One thing is for certain, whatever chance there was of Quick bringing the Cup to Amherst decreased significantly with this week’s events.

Henrik Lundqvist beat out Quick for the Vezina Trophy.

Chris Hall, who has spent the last two years as the team’s Graduate Assistant/Director of Hockey Operations and recent received a Masters degree from UMass, wrote this heartfelt tribute to Toot on his blog.  Again, just another young man whom Toot helped prepare for bigger and better things away from Amherst.  From the sounds of it it appears those bigger and better things for Hall may come in the form of an assistant coaching position with Blaise MacDonald at Colby.  Though he’s been with the program for a couple years I hadn’t had a chance to meet and talk with Hall until recent weeks.  I must say I was very impressed by him and foresee a successful coaching career in his future.  Who knows, maybe that future will bring him back to the Mullins Center.  Darren Yopyk, considered by many to be the early leading candidate to replace Toot, got his start as a Grad Assistant at UMass.  Chris, good luck in the next step of your career and thanks for your all your hard work for UMass hockey.

Not all of today’s UMass hockey news had to do with outgoing or incoming coaches.

Conor Allen, Emerson Auvenshine, Kevin Czepiel, Peter DeAngelo, Branden Gracel, Joel Hanley, Steve Mastalerz, Mike Pereira, Jeff Teglia, and Oleg Yevenko were all named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team today.  Teglia had the highest GPA among all Hockey East goaltenders.  Congrats to all!

Also on the academic front APR scores, used by the NCAA to measure academic progress among schools, were released today for the 2010-11 season.  UMass hockey received a score of 988, its highest since the APR came into existence.  Their score was good for 4th among Hockey East schools with only UNH, BU, and Maine scoring higher.  It also put the hockey team 9th best out of the 21 teams on the UMass campus.  Again an excellent example of the type of legacy Toot Cahoon leaves here at UMass.

In non-UMass news, UConn is one step closer to joining Hockey East for the 2013-14 season.

Now, to answer some questions I’ve gotten through the blog and the rest of the FTT social media empire.

Do you think UMass will lose any current players or committed recruits as a result of this transition?

Yes.  That’s not based on any real information I’ve gotten, but these type of things always result in some kind of turnover.  I was already thinking there would be names missing from the roster this fall just because of the size of the roster and depth at some of the positions.  Now which players/recruits could the team lose?  I have no idea.  The handful of players that tweeted their reactions yesterday were very much about the team, hard work, and doing what it takes to win.  I didn’t see any complaints or anything remotely negative.

Who would you like to see chosen for the position?

It’s still early in the process and there could be candidates out there that I’m not yet aware of who when they come into play will top my list.  But of the names rumored so far, and with it appearing that contractual obstacles will prevent Mark Dennehy from being considered, I would say Yopyk is my early pick.  He has a degree from UMass and spent two years here as a Grad Assistant.  He was an assistant at Merrimack for four years and helped recruit and develop many of the players that led that program to new heights.  From there he was a successful head coach in one of the better junior leagues on the continent.  Last year it’s rumored he had the head coaching job at his alma mater, Princeton, wrapped up until he ran into immigration issues (since resolved).  On top of all that he has the support of Stoney from the Hangar which, in my eyes, puts him over the top.

So what REALLY happened behind the scenes that resulted in this change?

Pretty much all I know I’ve either relayed already, wrote about in my post last week about the radio deal, or linked to stories that covered a lot of what I’ve heard behind the scenes.  Honestly, this whole thing happened so fast I’m not sure the whole story will ever totally make it out to the public.

That’s all I have for now.  I’m going to be putting together a list and brief profile of all rumored coaching candidates and link to it at the top of the page where the schedule and recruiting pages are.  Look for that hopefully by the end of the night.

The Coaching Candidate page is now up and running.  Find the link at the top of the page. -FTT

Toot Cahoon Era Ends At UMass

First up, the facts.

Coach Toot Cahoon stepped down today as head coach of the Massachusetts hockey program in what I’ve been told was a mutual decision between him and Athletic Director John McCutcheon.  No reasons were given in this release from the school and Cahoon at this time has not commented.  However, let’s remember this comes less than a week after the school named the WEEI affiliate in Springfield as the new flagship station for UMass radio broadcasts but not the new home for UMass hockey broadcasts.  In fact we’re still waiting for a new home for UMass hockey broadcasts.  That’s not a coincidence.  As I wrote last week, this was further evidence of the athletic department’s lack of commitment to the program.  Two stories on Cahoon’s decision, citing unnamed sources, specifically mention McCutcheon not focusing on  hockey successful as what ultimately what led to the two sides parting ways.  Here’s a telling quote from Harry Plummer’s story on Masslive:

“In the circumstances that surround the hockey program and this league, and how it’s perceived and viewed in and around the community vis a vis the interest and general support … there’s a broad perception that this program has second-tier status when that shouldn’t be the case,” the source said. “When you play in the best conference, you expect a certain investment financially, man power wise, et cetera.”

Michael King’s story for College Hockey News also cites lack of support as part of the reasoning behind this move.  McCutcheon denies such a thing in both reports.

Whatever the reason, the fact is UMass, which was already looking for an Assistant Coach with Blaise MacDonald leaving and a Director of Hockey Operations (more on that later), is now looking for a new face to lead the program as well.  And frankly, the timing of this sucks.  Having to go out and replace key parts to a staff in the middle of June puts the school at a disadvantage.  The coaching carousel stopped months ago.  Potential candidates have already committed to schools and are knee deep into planning for next year.  If the school had any doubts about whether Toot was the right person to lead the program they should’ve had the guts to make the decision sooner.  We know that Toot had made his decision and in Mid-March he told Dick Baker that he planned to stay this season and possibly longer.  Toot meant what he said back then and when I talked to him within the last two weeks he was enthusiastically talking about next season and the players coming back.  So what happened in the meantime?  Oh yeah, the athletic department publicly announced that hockey would not be broadcast on UMass’ flagship radio station with basketball and football.  I love the work the administration has done with athletics, especially in regards to the football upgrade and the hiring of Derek Kellogg as basketball coach, but they completely blew how the radio announcement was handled.  Especially coming right when UMass hockey was in the national news as a result of Jon Quick’s Conn Smythe performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Total blunder.  The perception it created was poor and, in my opinion, likely created a rift between Cahoon and McCutcheon that couldn’t be repaired.

But, that’s now the past.  Now it’s time to get a new coach.  I am hearing the Len Quesnelle will be retained by the school for the upcoming season and therefore can provide some continuity for the current players and committed recruits.  Matt Vautour has reaction from Mike Pereira in his story on the departure and the news that Toot intends to retire from hockey.  With that the question becomes who will be the next UMass coach.  Matt has it right by saying McCutcheon’s first phone call should be to former UMass assistant Mark Dennehy.  However it’s unknown whether he has any interest and he does there still could be significant contractual challenges to successfully lure him away from Merrimack.  For the record, Mike McMahon from the Eagle-Tribune has said that Dennehy is not a candidate.  And frankly, if McMahon is reporting it, it’s probably true (sorry, Dickie Dunn).  CHN’s Joe Meloni tweeted this afternoon that Kyle Wallack, who I wrote about yesterday as a candidate for the assistant position, could be considered for the head job.  I would think former UMass Grad Assistant Darren Yopyk would be a leading candidate, given that he was a finalist for the Northeastern position and had the Princeton job until visa problems derailed the opportunity.   Meloni also mentioned former Maine Black Bear and current USHL coach Jim Montgomery as a possibility.  There are also rumors that Providence coach Nate Leaman may be interested in the position.  I would assume BC assistant Mike Cavanaugh would be in the mix because, well, he’s always a candidate for every head coaching job.  The problem is he never gets them so I’m not sure what that says about his prospects.  I would recommend following Meloni on Twitter because he has been right on top of the early stages of this search and, as a former Collegian reporter, has connections to the UMass program as well as college hockey in general.

So those are the facts.  Here’s my opinion.  I have mixed feelings about Toot no longer being coach of UMass hockey.  Obviously the last few years have been disappointing and it hasn’t been the easiest of times to be a fan of the program.  With the exception of 2010-2011 when the team was full of freshmen you couldn’t help but feel UMass underachieved in recent years.  The team would’ve had to have a very successful year, at least a bubble team for the NCAA tournament, for me to support a contract extension for Toot following next season.  In the end, that point is moot.

What’s important is that we can celebrate all that Toot did for UMass hockey.  If one became a fan from around 2003 to 2007 it’s easy to say that in recent years Toot didn’t live up to the expectations he himself set for the program with the success during that time.  However if you became a fan in 1993 Toot will forever be remember as finally bringing UMass to the promised land.  UMass hockey was god awful when he took over for Joe Mallen in 2000.  The program was so historically bad the fans should’ve been wearing paper bags on their heads.  But that would’ve required fans.  But he came in and was, for us oldtimers at least, a miracle worker.  This team had never sniffed a Hockey East playoff win (play-in game against BC notwithstanding) and within three years he had UMass making their semifinal debut at the FleetCenter.  The next year UMass went all the way to the finals and were a Jimmy Howard glove save and a Kevin Jarman toe away from being Hockey East Champions.  Three years after that UMass fans gathered from near and far to watch the team take the ice in its first NCAA tournament in Rochester, NY and come one win away from the Frozen Four.  In recent years a lot of UMass fans have called for a change of coaches so UMass could return to the tourney and get back to competing for Hockey East titles.  And I don’t blame them for that.  But the fact is they only want to return there and experience the feeling of a successful hockey program again because Toot got the team there first.

That’s what Toot did for the hockey program on the ice.  A top five ranking.  A Lightning College Classic Championship.  Three Hockey East Semifinal appearances.  One Hockey East Final appearance.  One NCAA appearance.  One NCAA win. Toot’s biggest victories though, were off the ice.  Wins and losses are important, but in the end this is college athletics.  Equally important is what kind of young men come out of the program.  When it comes to this Toot’s success is indisputable.  I have always been impressed by the type of men that leave Amherst under Toot’s tutelage.  Nearly all the former players I’ve been lucky enough to interact with have been intelligent, represent the school well, and many go on to great success on or off the ice after leaving campus.  I always think about someone like Martin Nolet, an Academic All-American as a pre-med major.  Brett Watson and Paul Dainton took time away from their studies and hockey at UMass to immerse themselves in local charities and got their teammates involved too.  Peter Trovato has done tremendous work in founding and operating the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund and just recently graduated from Harvard Business School.  Toot brought some great hockey talent to campus.  But he also brought in some tremendous young men to represent the team and the university.  And they graduated (nearly all of them) as better people than when they came in thanks in large part to Toot’s guidance.  I’ve had a number of parents talk to me in the past about how thankful they were that they sent away their sons to learn and grow under Toot at UMass.

Lastly, as a fan, I was very happy to have Toot out there as the face of the program.  I’ve been around UMass coaches who want absolutely nothing to do with the fans and just want to go out, coach their players, and go home.  I’ve been around coaches who will stick around for a couple minutes and make small talk, act polite, and then quickly escape when they have the first opportunity.  That wasn’t Toot.  He seems to genuinely enjoy talking to fans and other supporters of the program and he especially loves to just talk hockey.  I remember being worried when I started Fear The Triangle because I knew I would do my best to be honest and criticize the power play or lines when I felt necessary but I didn’t know how Toot would react to that criticism.  He reacted by publicly thanking me for the effort I put into the blog and giving other fans a place to go to follow the team. If he ever felt insulted by the fact that I, some dude who never played the game, second guessed his decisions on a semi-regular basis he never showed it and did nothing but encourage me to keep this blog going.

When he was hired Toot brought with him a wealth of hockey knowledge and instant credibility for the program.  But he also brought in a great attitude.  He dedicated himself to trying to establish UMass hockey as a force locally and nationally and did everything he could to make that happen.  Dedication to UMass.  He came in from Princeton as a former National Champion for the Boston University Terriers.  He leaves a Minuteman.  Just in the last month I spoke with him and he mentioned that while he maintains connections with BU and has great memories there, he considers himself completely affiliated with the University of Massachusetts.  And that doesn’t surprise me.  He put a lot of himself into this school and especially this program and whatever UMass hockey is right now it’s that because of him.

Toot, thanks for bringing the program to heights never reached before.  Thanks for developing outstanding hockey players on the ice, in the classroom, and in the community.  And thanks for representing the University of Massachusetts, my alma mater which I hold so very dear, with the utmost class in every way, shape, and form.

I’ll do my best to relay whatever news I can during this time period so keep checking back.  Also be sure to follow Fear The Triangle on Twitter, as I can’t always post news immediately but I can almost always tweet.  Also make sure to check out the FTT Facebook page as it’s another place to keep up to date but right now it has some nice words about Toot from and fans and former players, some of whom didn’t even play for him.

Breaking: Cahoon Steps Down

UMass announced today that Coach Toot Cahoon has stepped down as head hockey coach and is immediately starting a search for his replacement.

Official release:

Check back to FTT tonight as I’ll have full coverage and opinion on the day’s news.

News On Potential Assistant Coaches

College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni had a few tweets over the weekend about UMass’ open assistant position.


Have it from a source that John Hamre is most likely to replace Blaise MacDonald as UMass assistant coach.

However he later tweeted:


Hearing that Cahoon’s contract along with family issues possibly preventing Hamre from taking job. Cahoon’s contract expires after this year

Following that he mentioned Byron Pool is a candidate.  And tonight he relayed to me the news that Kyle Wallack is on UMass’ list as well.

Hamre is currently the Associate Head Coach of the NAHL’s Michigan Warriors.  Prior to that he was the head coach at the Blake School in Minnesota, coaching former Minuteman John Wessbecker.  He has been an assistant coach under Toot Cahoon at Princeton as well as Yale and Alaska-Anchorage.  Here’s an article from when he was hired by the Warriors last year (it incorrectly states that Hamre coached at Blaine School).  The Warriors also posted this youtube video with Hamre.

Pool on the other hand is the Associate Head Coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force, where Oleg Yevenko played.  Prior to that he was head coach of the Bismarck Bobcats of the NAHL, coaching Emerson Auvenshine for a season, leading the team to a league championship.  Pool played four years at defense for Colgate.

Wallack was recently let go as the head coach of the Indiana Ice, a surprise move to all since the team had the second best record in the USHL before he was fired at season’s end.  Before that he was the associate head coach at Yale (Wallack’s departure allowed former UMass assistant Red Gendron to take his spot with the Bulldogs).  Wallack has also been an assistant at Holy Cross, UConn, and Quinnpiac.  Wallack played at Springfield College and coached the Junior Falcons to an EJHL championship.

Overall all three seem like good candidates.  It’s not a surprise that the fact that Toot’s contract is only through this year could be an issue with any candidate moving their families cross country.  There is some definitely instability surrounding the program going into this season.  Another person I hope they’d at least reach out to would be Darren Yopyk, who was once a grad assistant at UMass.  Following that he was an assistant coach for Mark Dennehy at Merrimack and then went on to become the head coach of the Westside Warriors of the BCHL (coaching Kevin Boyle).  Yopyk is currently a scout for the Minnesota Wild and was a candidate for the Northeastern job last offseason.  I’ve heard a lot of great things about Yopyk and if he were willing to come on as an assistant it could be an opportunity to groom him for the head coaching job if Toot decides to retire after the season. had this excellent story about former UMass goaltending coach Jim Stewart coming back for one final season to help mentor Jon Quick.

The Republican’s Harry Plummer has coverage of Blaise MacDonald’s departure for Colby.

Plummer’s addition to the Republican/Masslive staff means that Dick Baker will no longer be posting blog entries about UMass hockey.  It’s unclear if he’ll still cover the team for the print stories.  Either way it’ll be too bad to not have his semi-regular updates on the team.  Baker has covered hockey in Western Mass for over 30 years.

Lastly, as of now UMass hockey still doesn’t have a home on the radio dial.  Even more sadly, I’ve spoken to a number of people surrounding UMass athletics in the last few days and no one has refuted my suggestion last week that the lack of a radio deal is further evidence that the athletic department is not giving the program enough focus and resources to be successful.  Quite frankly, even in the wake of Jon Quick thrusting UMass hockey into the national spotlight, there are dark clouds forming over the Mullins ice.

Blaise MacDonald Headed To Colby

Blaise MacDonald, assistant coach for the past year, is leaving Amherst to be a head coach again.  He’s now the head man at DIII Colby College.  MacDonald was of course the long-time coach at Lowell before being let go prior to last season.  Before that he was head coach at Niagara.  It’s of no surprise to me that MacDonald would leave so quickly from UMass.  He’s been a head coach for a long time.  Once you’ve run a program it’s rare that you’d want to go back to being an assistant for an extended period.  There were rumblings earlier in the Spring that he was considering a job in the USHL, but that never came to be.  Getting the Colby job will allow him to stay in New England.

MacDonald leaving eliminates the uncomfortable conversation of whether he would be considered the heir apparent if and when Toot Cahoon retires.  On one hand MacDonald has plenty of head coaching experience and is well thought of in coaching circles.  On the other hand he was let go from Lowell after never leading them to the NCAA tournament and having a number of talented teams that woefully underachieved.

Either way I thank Blaise for his year at UMass and wish him the best with the Mules (no seriously, that’s their mascot).

In the next day or two I’ll be putting together a list of some names I would like to see considered for the vacant assistant role.

In other recent news UMass officially announced next year’s recruiting class consisting of Shane Walsh, Evan Stack, K.J. Tiefenwerth, and Connor Doherty.  No surprise for those who read FTT regularly.  However the release is interesting in that we get Toot’s comments on the class.

“Doherty is a solid defender with good physical stature and a strong stick. He comes to us out of a program that has a history of producing quality defensemen.”

“Stack has the ability to score goals and is good around the net. He is a big body who will be a great physical presence for us in front.”

“Tiefenwerth has great vision on the ice. He is a playmaker who can set up his teammates, but will also score his share of goals.”

“Walsh possesses power play-type skills. With his ability to score, we can expect he will contribute offensively for us.”

Quickie may have had a beer or two too many before addressing a couple hundred thousand people at yesterday’s victory parade.

There have been a lot of great images surrounding the Kings’ victory.  None are more moving than this one.

Northeastern’s Steve Quailer has left school to join the Canadiens.