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View From Section U: Winning Hearts And Minds

As July comes to the close I would think most UMass hockey fans are relieved to finally have a new coach in place and have the chance to look forward to this coming season when the Minutemen have a good number of key players and considerable depth at most positions returning. At the same time I would hope that, despite some high expectations, UMass fans have an open mind and give Coach Micheletto a Honeymoon Period and all allow him to build the program as he sees fit. Someone else who may also stand to benefit from a bit of a Honeymoon Period while fans are optimistic and open-minded about the program is Athletic Director John McCutcheon.

It’s safe to say that a good number of the UMass hockey faithful have lost trust in McCutcheon to do what’s best for the program and give Micheletto the support needed to reach the pinnacle of success in college hockey. This loss of faith occurred in a short amount of time. First came the announcement of the new radio deal for UMass, it wasn’t necessarily that the deal didn’t include hockey but how it was handled in relation to hockey (hockey was never even mentioned, even though it had shared the same flagship station with football and basketball) coming right on the heels of Jon Quick’s Stanley Cup heroics that really put a bad taste in people’s mouths. McCutcheon and former coach Toot Cahoon deciding he should step down in the middle of June amidst rumors of inadequate administrative support of hockey further frustrated fans. Then there was the circus of the coaching search, which I don’t feel like relaying the details of yet again, which pretty much made McCutcheon a lightning rod for the complaints of hardcore supporters of UMass hockey, myself included. Deservedly so in my opinion. Yet, we are now embarking on a new era of UMass hockey, one we hopefully can look forward to wholeheartedly. Just as we should give Micheletto the benefit of the doubt and our unwavering support, perhaps there’s an opportunity to rebuild some bridges between McCutcheon and the hockey program.

Yet, it’s a two way street. There are a number of actions McCutcheon can undertake, some simple, some not so much, that I think would go a long way towards rebuilding the trust of the UMass hockey fans. Here is what I think John McCutcheon can do to get back in good graces with us fans:

1) Find a radio home: As mentioned above, this was really the first thing to kick off our summer of discontent. But I think it’s key to find someplace on the dial for fans in the valley to follow their favorite team, for those far away to stream games through the magic of the interwebs, and if possible to leverage smart phone technology and allow UMass hockey fans to listen from pretty much anywhere. The good news is in talking to people around the program it does sound like progress has been made in this regard. But obviously it’s important to close the deal on this one.

2) Be seen at games: Now, a number of fans have referenced the fact that you very rarely witness McCutcheon attending hockey games. Whether he’s there and just lurking in the shadows of his office up behind the upper sections of the season ticket side is up for debate. But given all that’s gone on I think it would do him well to walk the concourse, maybe take in a few games with newly appointed Chancellor “Swammy” Subbaswamy, or even give marketing guru Todd MacDonald a break and do some presentations on the ice in between periods. Whatever it is, make sure fans know that you’re there with them supporting the team in person. While there it probably wouldn’t hurt to make a trip up to the Massachusetts Room in between periods to get up close and personal with the Pond Club members. Hell, maybe while you’re up there grumpy fan bloggers may even buy you an Opa-Opa Red Rock!

3) Be seen at events: Getting out to the games is key, but I think it’s also important to be a UMass hockey events. As I mentioned earlier in the summer, as I remember it, there was zero representation from the athletic department at this years Reverse Raffle fundraiser. That’s unacceptable. There was also minimal participation at the Golf Tournament by McCutcheon and other administrators. It can’t be like that. I understand they have a very busy schedule, but these are events attended by some of the most hardcore fans and, more importantly, some of the most generous when it comes to donations. Those people need to know their support isn’t going into some black hole within the athletic department. They need to know the administration supports the program and will do their best to make the most out of every dollar donated to UMass hockey.

4) Announce a capital campaign: Speaking of dollars donated, this is a great time to reinvigorate donations and spending to the hockey program. You obviously have the attention of casual and diehard fans alike with naming a new coach and starting a new era of UMass hockey, why not give them a reason to do their part towards future success. A capital campaign for UMass hockey, co-funded by the athletic department and donors alike, would be a great way to kick off Coach Micheletto’s tenure. The school is about to break ground on state of the art football and basketball facilities on campus. Most school sports have seen significant upgrades towards facilities recently. Hockey? Not so much. The great myth surrounding UMass hockey is that is has top notch facilities in Hockey East which makes it desirable amongst recruits.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In a statement that makes me feel entirely ancient, let’s remember that the Mullins Center will turn 20 years old this January. Aside from new locker rooms (paid for by the Pond Club) and video boards, there have been little renovations for hockey in those years. Meanwhile across Hockey East most programs have dumped tons of money into their hockey facilities in recent years. Boston University built Agganis. Boston College made upgrades and put in a new compressor at Conte. Merrimack gutted Lawler and now plans to build a brand new practice rink. Lowell renovated Tsongas and is currently doing more, such as building new training facilities as well as redoing their suites. Northeastern just modernized the oldest hockey arena in the country in good fashion. Maine has made updates to Alfond. UMass hockey in the meantime is falling behind in the Hockey East arms race. Weight room, training facilities, compressor. You name it. I’ll leave it up to Coach Micheletto to determine what UMass hockey needs most right now. But once he has decided it’d be great if McCutcheon and then the supporters of the program like me and you got behind the idea with both our voices and our wallets.

5) Get on the radio: Just as it’s important to be seen at games, McCutcheon should be heard at games. I’m somewhat amazed while I sit in the stands at the Mullins how many texts I get from friends or tweets I get from fellow fans from afar reagarding the game I’m watching. There are a great number of fans listening to these games on the radio. Once a radio station has been established for the season I think it’s important that McCutcheon gets on it. I don’t think he needs to be on it weekly. I think two or three times a season would be fine. But I think having him sit down with Brock Hines and John Hennessy and just talk about UMass hockey, UMass athletics, and his thoughts on college hockey in general would do wonders for his image among hockey fans. A once a season appearance on the coaches show would also be a great gesture.

6) Hire a full-time Director of Hockey Operations: This is a position you see for both the UMass basketball and football programs. More importantly this is position you see at the Hockey East schools that UMass is aspiring to be. By having a full time administrator dedicated to taking care of the details and making sure the program is functioning as it should would free up the coaching staff to do what they do best; developing players and recruiting the next generation of Minutemen. Recently this position was filled by Chris Hall, who by all accounts did an excellent job, as part of his duties as Graduate Assistant. But this is really too much to try to do part time and really needs someone who is dedicated to these essential duties.

7) Get us a Puck Band: OK, this is a bit of a crusade of mine. First I posted about if a few years ago in my ideas to improve the UMass hockey experience. Then I posted this open letter to then newly appointed UMass Marching Band Dr. Timothy Anderson. Yet UMass still is the only Hockey East school without some kind of puck band. Honestly, a pep band adds so much to the college hockey experience. I travel to a lot of games and besides the arena itself what sticks in my head from those visits is the band. Whether you have Maine’s band playing Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Jump On It”, hearing “When You’ve Say Wisconsin, You’ve Said It All” in Madison, or even a bunch of band alumni dragging instruments down to Tampa in order to play “Hail, Dear Old Rensselaer”, nothing beats having a hockey band. Nothing. It’s long past time for UMass to have one. I figure McCutcheon, just coming off the near impossible task of getting all parties involved to agree to UMass upgrading football and gaining an invite from the MAC (a move I’ve been advocating for years), he must have the cache to do whatever it takes for hockey to finally get its deserved pep band. Strong arm people, make promises, do whatever it takes within the norms of a college campus and NCAA regulations. I personally don’t care. I just know that if I were to listen to the refrains of Fight Mass echo around the Mullins when the team opens up it season against UConn I might just forget this entire offseason happened. Seriously, make it so.

Those are my thoughts. That’s what I think it’ll take for John McCutcheon to win back the hearts and minds of the UMass hockey fandom. Maybe I’m asking for too much. Maybe my thoughts are not representative of the overall opinion of UMass hockey fans. But that’s my view. All I know is that, despite all that went on, there is some promise to his ultimate choice of who will lead UMass hockey onward. In the end how Micheletto does at the helm will probably mean more towards his standing among us UMass hockey fans, but I think everything I’ve listed above would enhance his standing among us that much more.

It looks like UMass is looking for more than just one assistant coach. Former UMass goaltending coach Mike Buckley has been named to the same position at UNH. Buckley made some significant contributions to UMass hockey in his five years in Amherst. Paul Dainton set career records under his watch and the program got some solid goaltending from Kevin Boyle, Steve Mastalerz, and Jeff Teglia despite their relative youth and inexperience. I know players and coaches alike have always thought highly of Buckley’s work at UMass and I wish him the best in this next step in his career.

Elsewhere in Hockey East, Lowell is extending the contract of coach of Norm Bazin through 2016. This move is well deserved in my opinion given the historic turnaround of the River Hawk program this past season.

Meanwhile Mike McMahon of the Eagle-Tribune is reporting that Northeastern and Vermont are the favorites in landing Kevin Roy, the USHL Player of the Year who recently decommitted from Brown.

This may be the last FTT post for a while as I’m about to embark on a much anticipated (needed) vacation starting Friday to Northern California. For the Beer The Triangle fans out there you’ll be happy to know I pan to hit around 10 breweries in the area such as Lagunitas, Anderson Valley, and the legendary Russian River. I’ll also be hitting a few Baskin-Robbins out there as well since their ice cream is far superior to anything in New England (soft serve sucks). Since I’m going on vacation and away from home I fully expect at least the following events to occur in my absence; UMass names an assistant coach, UMass announces its 2012-13 schedule (even though I’ve already compiled it for you), and UMass announces it’s new radio partner for UMass hockey. I’ll post if I can while I’m going back to Cali (yo, I don’t think so), but I still suggest getting on Twitter and following FTT there in order to stay the most up to date with whatever I know is going on with UMass hockey. I’ll do my best to keep the FTT Twitter account up to date as I travel from brewery to national park to Baskin-Robbins to hotel to brewery to national park to brewery.

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Up To The Minute 7/23

There’s not too much to pass along since UMass finally got their coaching situation squared away last week.

Harry Plumer updates us on Coach Micheletto’s first week on the job.  You have to like that team unity appeared to be a theme that kept coming up when Micheletto was reaching out to the team.

Micheletto was interviewed on Springfield’s ESPN station last week after he was introduced.

Hockey public address announcer Matt “Matty G” Goldstein called his second game of the year at Fenway Park yesterday.  His first was hockey’s Frozen Fenway game in January, but yesterday he got to call the Sox game.  Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like he was able to fulfill my request of replacing Sweet Caroline with a noise meter.

Casey Wellman was traded last week from the New York Rangers to the Florida Panthers.  After being traded to New York from Minnesota who signed him out of UMass, it sounds like Wellman forced his way out of the Rangers organization by not signing his qualifying offer.  Maybe the third time’s the charm for Wellman in terms of getting regular NHL minutes.

Meanwhile, Greg Mauldin will be heading overseas this season to play with HC Fribourg in Switzerland.  Mauldin played the last couple seasons with Lake Erie in the Avalanche organization.

Brown hockey took a big hit today when top recruit Kevin Roy decommitted from the program along with his brother.  It’s rumored the Anaheim draft pick may end up somewhere in Hockey East.  To my knowledge UMass does not have a spot available, but I have no idea if that change in the last few weeks with everything going on with the program.

Here’s some perspective on what today’s big news out of State College may mean to Penn State’s fledgling hockey program.

No SEC Hockey anytime in the future.  The way they’re losing free agents, things aren’t looking good for the Predators either.

Additional Micheletto Coverage

Just some links to pass along from yesterday’s introduction of John Micheletto as UMass head coach.

First, here is the article from the Boston Herald’s Jim Clark to go with his blog post yesterday.

Matt Vautour had this notes piece that I didn’t have a chance to link to last night featuring player reaction and some other tidbits.  Interesting to note that McCutcheon does admit that the timing of the search did affect some candidates’ interest in the position while Micheletto says that he spoke to equipment manager Josh Penn and women’s hoops coach Sharon Dawley about working at UMass.

Masslive’s Harry Plumer had a player reaction story as well.

USCHO had this interesting feature on UMass’ hire.

Up next for Micheletto will be hiring an assistant coach to fill out his staff.  Speculation is rampant and encouraging but so far nothing specific has been reported.

If you’re on Twitter, make sure you follow Coach Mick.

John Micheletto Introduced As Head Coach

So UMass made it official as Vermont assistant John Micheletto, or Coach Mick, became UMass third coach since the rebirth of the program and the 13th overall.  Micheletto was given a five year contract to lead the Minutemen for $221,000 per year.  It was a long and at times painful process to watch as a UMass fan but it feels good to finally have the chance to look ahead to next season and beyond with Micheletto at the helm of the program.  As I wrote last night, given the new coach’s extensive experience in Hockey East and beyond, his excellent reputation as someone who can recruit top notch players to programs not necessarily considered elite, and his ability to develop players in college and at USA Hockey, this has the potential to be a very good hire for UMass.

I did not attend today’s press conference, though I wish I had been able to, however here’s a recap of the coverage from those who were there.

First up is the official release from UMass, including quotes from Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon and the UVM President.  In today’s press conference AD John McCutcheon revealed that there were over 50 candidates for the position, 15 of which were interviewed.  Coach Micheletto did say he plans to keep current assistant coach Len Quesnelle on staff and will begin the search for the second assistant soon, but hasn’t spoken to anyone yet.

Secondly here is the video of today’s press conference.  It does include an edited portion of the Q&A period, which was inaudible during the live stream this afternoon.

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Here are various quotes from the coach in today’s proceedings:

“Let me first say how humbled I am to be as the 13th head coach at the University of Massachusetts.”

“When I started coaching in 1991, I could have never fathomed that my opportunity (to be a head coach) would come with such a highly-regarded institution and hockey program as Massachusetts.”

“I’m eager to build on the many positives that are in place with our program right now;  great young men with a desire to succeed and make UMass fans proud, a first-rate facility in the Mullins Center, a rabid fanbase, and a supportive administration”

“Culture, coaching, and recruiting are always keys to building a successful program.  We have strong veteran leadership on this year’s club, that will go a long way in developing our culture.”

“We will play hard.  We will play fast.  We will create on offense because we commit to defense.  We will be fun to watch.  And we will be tough to play against.”

“To our many fans, you’ve proven to be among the best in Hockey East.  We need you, your support, and your involvement to continue more strongly now than ever.”

“To hockey players in North America and around the world, find Amherst Massachusetts on your map and put a circle around it.  This is the place to be.  Go Minutemen.”

Here’s the blog post from UMass alum Jim Clark of the Boston Herald who covered the press conference.  I’ll post Clark’s actual story in a subsequent post after it becomes available.  I’m told the Globe did not have anyone in attendance.  Shocking.

Here’s Matt Vautour’s story from today in the Gazette.

Masslive’s Harry Plumer has an extensive article up from the press conference.

Nick Canelas covered the press conference for the Collegian.

Current UMass players on Twitter were overwhelming positive and seemed relived to be able to focus on hockey again.

I’m sure there will be more coverage from Micheletto’s appointment and as always I’ll pass it along when I can.  Overall I think this is a good day for UMass fans.  We finally have the chance to look ahead to hockey with the hope that comes from something completely unknown.  I’m sure no more than a few fans can say Coach Mick was their first choice when this process began, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all support him, and thus the team.  Since it is mid-July we can actually look forward to the start of next season, ask “Is it October yet?”, and have that time be relatively close.  Just 88 days away.

Now that the coaching search is over and we can turn to a new chapter of Minuteman hockey, I would like to address one more issue before we turn away from this page forever.  Through the last four weeks, starting when Toot Cahoon stepped down among reports of lack of support, I have done my best to provide FTT readers with timely and accurate information regarding their UMass hockey team.  I do not claim to be a journalist, but I can assure you that I relied heavily on news reported by legitimate and respect media sources.  When I reported original news relating to the recent events, I only did so when I was able to confirm that information through other channels or was relayed information through very trusted sources.  Despite this I have been accused by friends and strangers alike, publicly and in private, of spreading false information.  This is untrue.  I’ve worked extremely hard over the last few weeks to make sure that UMass hockey fans were as informed as possible to what was going on with their team.  I believe I did that and stand by everything I reported.

It has also been suggested that the very existence of Fear The Triangle exacerbated the the public relations nightmare that UMass hockey went through during this process.  That’s not the case.  The most damaging events, reports of offers to coaches and their subsequent refusals, were never first reported by FTT.  Though I may have known of such events, I never reported them on FTT until they were reported by true media organizations.  The only news ever revealed on FTT was that of interviews and prospective candidates.  Maybe I did relay a lot of bad news coming from the search that did not paint UMass or those involved in the search in a good light, but FTT was created to be a central source for all news relating to the program, not just the good stuff.  Damaging coverage was not of my making.

Lastly, I’ve been accused, again by friends and strangers alike, of having some kind of agenda against John McCutcheon or the athletic department.  This is false.  My agenda is for UMass hockey to be successful.  That’s it.   Athletic directors will come and go, as will coaches.  But UMass hockey will still be here and I’ll be here as well, fiercely supporting it.  I did my best to further my pro-UMass hockey agenda and will continue to do what I can to make sure the program has what it needs to succeed at the highest levels, even if that means calling for better leadership at the cost of some of my existing relationships with people around the program.  Go UMass.

Micheletto To UMass; Reports and FTT Opinion

So here are the different reports of Vermont Associate Head Coach John Micheletto heading to Amherst as the next UMass coach.

Matt Vautour of the Gazette was the first to report the news.

It was later confirmed by others including Section U’s own Jim Clark who confirmed the news in the Boston Herald.

The news was also reported by College Hockey News as well as the Collegian’s Nick Canelas.

Edit: Micheletto will be introduced at a 4pm Press Conference later today. -MC

I wasn’t planning on registering my opinion until the it became official. However, I have also been able to confirm the news through my own sources, so I might as well weigh in on the news myself.

I’ll admit that when Toot Cahoon stepped down nearly four weeks ago, Micheletto was not on the top of my list. Well, he wasn’t on my radar. OK, he wasn’t really even a recognizable name to me at the time. But I did know there were three things I wanted out of a candidate. Hockey East experience in some capacity. Experience as an assistant recruiting to a school of similar prestige as UMass (i.e. not a Boston College where you’re picking recruits instead of them picking you). And head coaching experience at some level, likely junior. Those three things led me to three top candidates; Merrimack’s Mark Dennehy who I think we all knew was a longshot at best, former UMass Graduate Assistant and Merrimack Assistant Darren Yopyk, and Dubuque Head Coach Jim Montgomery. For various reasons, those three were not destined to become the UMass head coach. Along the way in the search we found the job offered (yes, offered) to current DI head coaches like Holy Cross’ Paul Peal and Quinnpiac’s Rand Pecknold. These were well respected guys who had have problems breaking through in their own leagues and I thought would could struggle in Hockey East. Cedar Rapids coach Mark Carlson was also a top candidate for the position and he possessed those three qualifications I was hoping for. In the end it ended up being John Micheletto

Micheletto has two of the the things I was looking for. He has been an assistant in Hockey East as long as Vermont has been in the league. As Associate Head Coach at Vermont he has experience recruiting to a school of similar prestige to UMass. And frankly, I’ve thought Vermont’s recruiting has been better than UMass’ in recent years, which makes me optimistic. Whether you’re talking about past stars like Viktor Stalberg or even guys like Zemgus Girgensons, who recently spurred the Catamounts this week to sign with the Sabres, the fact is that Vermont has been getting some very good recruits. Guys like Nick Luuko are players who Micheletto persuaded to chose Vermont directly over UMass. Minuteman fans will be careful not to be jaded by this hire by only looking at UVM’s last place finish this past year. Though the past two years have been abysmal, Vermont has made the NCAA tournament twice in the past five years, including the Frozen Four in 2009. In fact in some kind of irony I realized when I sat down to write this piece that I’d been wearing the t-shirt I bought at the Frozen Four in Washington featuring the Vermont logo. What UMass fans do have to be concerned about is that Micheletto’s last experience as a head coach came in prep school. He does bring to Amherst a lot of time working in USA Hockey however which lends to the hope that he can develop players at this level.

This is not the flashy hire that most of us hoped for. However, as the search went on and UMass fans grew ever more frustrated, it became clear that a flashy hire was never in the cards due to the limitations of the administration in charge of the search. But, in the end this still seems like someone who can potentially do well at UMass. There are a lot of positives to Micheletto and I’m willing to see how he’s able to do at UMass before completely passing judgment. We should get a pretty good feel from him early. While his strength may be recruiting he’ll walk into a solid core of players who leg UMass to some upset wins last year and seemed on the verge of something big this coming season. It’s up to Micheletto to step in and get the most out of those players. I think UMass fans were expecting to seem a successful season this year no matter who was coach given everything coming back. I don’t think, despite all that has transpired so far this offseason, we’ve seen anything to abandon that hope as of yet.

A bunch of T.J. Syner related news to pass along.

First, you can watch video of him at Capitals Development Camp here.

Capitals Outsider had this nice feature on him. Hershey Bear coach said he’s one of the quickest players he’s ever seen. UMass fans already know that.

The Patriot-News had this story on Syner and cousin and BC Eagle Barry Almeida at camp together.

Report: John Micheletto To Be Named UMass Coach

Matt Vautour of the Gazette is reporting that Vermont Associate Head Coach John Micheletto will be named head hockey coach at Massachusetts, replacing Toot Cahoon.  Though he interviewed with Athletic Director John McCutcheon this past week, Micheletto is a bit of a surprise as most people thought the job would be offered to UNH assistant Scott Borek.

Micheletto has been an assistant at Vermont for the past nine years.  Prior to that he was an assistant at Notre Dame and Union.  He has also been actively involved in USA Hockey.  He played hockey for Dartmouth.

He has the reputation of a great recruiter, but hasn’t been behind the bench as a head coach since prep school.

Here’s his bio from UVM as well as his profile from HockeyDB.

A Closer Look At Borek & Gendron

Onto Plan G for UMass after Mark Carlson withdrew from the search for hockey head coach last night.  Don’t worry though fans, Athletic Director John McCutcheon still says that no one has been formally offered the job.  With each day that passes he begins to resemble Chip Diller from the final scene of Animal House.  I’m not exactly sure why he continues to insist that no candidates have been offered when a multitude of media reports say otherwise.  He should probably begin to change his tune or maybe not comment at all because UMass hockey fans, who already are calling for him to be replaced due to this poorly run coaching search, now feel that he’s openly lying to them.

Whatever McCutcheon’s motivation for pretending that his “process” is working, he now must turn to someone else and convince them of the positives of the UMass hockey program (and despite all that has gone on there are plenty of them) is worth coming to Amherst.  Many think UMass will now focus on New Hampshire Associate Coach Scott Borek.  Former UMass Assistant Coach Red Gendron is still a candidate and seems to be preferred among the players and a good amount of fans.  There may be a dark horse out there that has yet to pop up on the radar, but assuming the job will ultimately come down to one of these two, I thought I’d take a closer look at both.

Borek has been an assistant coach at UNH for the past 10 years, being promoted to Associate Head Coach after his first year there.  According to his UNH bio, he primarily is responsible for the offensive part of the game for the Wildcats.  Borek has also been an assistant coach at Brown, Providence, and his alma mater, Dartmouth.  He got into coaching due to an injury that ended his playing career after just two seasons for the Big Green.

Borek’s first head coaching job came at DIII Colby College in 1991.  Borek spent three seasons at Colby, compiling a 33-35-5 record, being named a finalist for DIII Coach of the Year during one of his years there.  From there he went west and spent one year as an assistant at Lake Superior State before taking over as Laker Head Coach when Jeff Jackson left.  Borek took over a program that had made the NCAA tournament nine straight years, winning three national championships during that time.  Borek would go 76-94-15 in five seasons there without a single NCAA appearance.  In fact, the Lakers haven’t been to the tournament since the season before he took over.  He would have two winning seasons in those five, going 19-14-5 in his first season and then 18-16-2 in his fourth season when he won CCHA coach of the year.  Ironically he tried to take over for Toot Cahoon after that season, being one of the finalists for the Princeton position when Cahoon came to Amherst.  Of course the position ultimately went to current UMass assistant Len Quesnelle.

Borek would be fired after five seasons at Lake State in which he never won a CCHA playoff game.  He would go on to be the head coach at New England College for a season before heading to Durham.  If Borek were to be hired, UMass fans would have to hope his time as head coach at Amherst would have drastically different results than his first foray at the Division I level.  He is very well respected at UNH and around Hockey East, being instrumental in the recruiting of so many of the talented Wildcat players over the past decade.  Unfortunately, most casual fans know him as the UNH coach who sent out emails to underage recruits, resulting in the program being placed on probation for two years.  Personally, I’m not overly concerned about the incident which appeared to just be an honest mistake.

Red Gendron has extensive coaching experience at both the collegiate and pro level and of course spent six years next to Toot Cahoon on the UMass bench.  He played hockey at New England College before going on to being a teacher and hockey, football, and baseball coach at a prep school in Vermont.  He started his college career as an assistant coach in college at Maine for two seasons in the early 90s and was on the staff when the Black Bears won the National Championship in 1993.  From there he moved onto the New Jersey Devils organization where he served as assistant coach, minor league head coach, and scout.  He spent two years as an assistant with the Devils in New Jersey before spending four years as an assistant in the AHL with Albany.  Gendron was then promoted to head coach of the Albany club, going 39-61-19 in one and a partial seasons.  He was replaced midseason during his second year.  He has three Stanley Cup rings as a result of his time with the Devils.  From there he coached the USHL’s Indiana Ice before moving onto Amherst.  Gendron took his current position at Yale prior to the start of last season.  He has also been involved in coaching for USA Hockey.

Gendron was thought of very highly during his time in Amherst by players and fans alike.  I personally always enjoyed interacting with him and thought he did a great job promoting the program through his work organizing events like the annual golf tournament.  Recruiting-wise he’s been credited with bringing some very talented players in recent years to Amherst.  The fact that he’s fluent in French and can even speak a little Russian is seen as an asset in recruiting.  What Gendron has going against him is if McCutcheon is looking for a total break from the Cahoon era, it’s unlikely he’d turn to Red.  Also, if Cahoon’s stepping down was due to differences between him and McCutcheon in terms of support within the department of hockey, Gendron would probably have the same concerns.  Gendron has a big personality and it’s doubtful he’d remain quiet if he thought the program wasn’t getting the support it needs in order to compete in Hockey East.  If McCutcheon is looking for a “yes man” who won’t complain as he diverts attention to other areas of the department, I don’t think Gendron is it.

That’s my profiles and thoughts of who I see as the leading candidates.  But there could be others out there.  Who knows, maybe McCutcheon will continue to interview another dozen or so candidates, drag the process ever onward, and the new coach can be announced during halftime of the first football game in September.  At this point, I wouldn’t put it past him.

UMass isn’t the only Hockey East team having a bad week (although in UMass’ case it’s also been a bad month and season), Vermont lost one of their top recruits to the NHL.

Carlson Staying In Cedar Rapids

After USHL coach Mark Carlson visited Amherst earlier in the week UMass has been waiting to see if the trip east went well enough to lure him from the job he’s been in for the past 12 seasons.  Late Friday it was reported that the prospect of the UMass hockey coaching job wasn’t enough for him to leave his current position in Cedar Rapids.  In my opinion the idea of Carlson as coach was much better than guys like Rand Pecknold or Paul Pearl who hadn’t consistently been able to make the NCAA tournament in their current positions in lesser leagues.  Carlson would’ve brought a ton of experience and reputation as one of the best coaches in amateur hockey.  In the end, UMass AD John McCutcheon could not convince him that the job in Amherst was better than the one he has currently in Iowa.

It’s unknown where UMass will turn from here.  Many think they’ll look to UNH Associate Coach Scott Borek who interviewed earlier in the week.  Borek has been in Durham for the past decade and has head coaching experience at Lake Superior State, though was let go after he went 76-94-15 in 5 seasons.  Personally I think at this point UMass’ best bet would probably be to hire former assistant coach Red Gendron who is familiar with the program and players, understands the unique challenges in Amherst, and as far as I know is genuinely interested enough in the job that he’d take it if offered.

At this point however who knows what direction McCutcheon will go in.  I can tell you that given all that has gone on with the hockey program this summer I have exactly zero confidence in him to do what’s best for UMass hockey in the end though.  We’ll see if he can prove me, and a good portion of other UMass hockey fans, wrong in that regard.

A few Jon Quick related links to share:

First, NESN says he’s tops among Americans currently playing in the NHL.

New England Hockey Journal has this in-depth feature that outlines his recruitment to and development at UMass.  Ironically it also talks about how much Quick’s success has benefitted the UMass hockey program.  Unfortunately this coaching search, which has been completely botched from the start, has diminished what should be a time for UMass fans to celebrate.

Quick won the ESPY award for NHL Player of the Year.

Coaching Search Update: No Update

Toot Cahoon stepped down in a mutual agreement with Athletic Director John McCutcheon three weeks ago yesterday. Players are due back a month from tomorrow. The season starts three months from tomorrow. UMass as of tonight still does not have a coach.

There has been little information regarding Mark Carlson’s status as a candidate after he spent the last two days in Amherst, whether he was offered, and just what, if any, timeline UMass has to fill this vacancy. UMass fans can only be patient in this search however it appears, in conversations with others and in following social media, that most of them lack confidence in McCutcheon to do what’s right for the Minuteman hockey program. Given the rumors swirling after Cahoon stepped down regarding the lack of administrative support for the program, McCutcheon’s missteps and lack of action in the coaching search have seemed to only solidify that notion. He may be starting to change the type of candidates he’s considering, but he really needs to change the way he’s approaching the interviews and the candidates themselves because so far it doesn’t appear to be paying off in terms of results. Not to be overly pessimistic but as this search progresses all I can think is “this is how Kevin Morris got hired for the UMass football program”. Let’s hope it turns out differently.

A couple more names to add to the “been interviewed” list. USHR reported that UMass interviewed Air Force Associate Head Coach Mike Corbett. I have a lot of respect for the Air Force program and what they regularly accomplish. Mike Corbett has some very good credentials. Totally wrong fit for what UMass needs.

Masslive’s Harry Plumer reported that UMass interviewed Vermont sssociate head coach John Micheletto. I like his extensive experience with USA Hockey, but I’m having a tough time finding distinction from all the other candidates we’ve heard about. Micheletto, Bavis, Brown, Cavanaugh, Borek. How do any of these candidates differ, what exactly is McCutcheon looking for, and when will he figure it out?

I apologize for being direct and curt regarding my personal evaluation of candidates, but frankly this is getting to be exhausting. My candidate list, filled with only people I’ve been able to actually link to the job not just speculation, is up to 20 names. Twenty! So please don’t fill up the comment section with nasty remarks because I didn’t give your favorite candidate the respect you think they deserve. It doesn’t matter anyway. My opinion obviously is completely out of whack with the Athletic Department. Otherwise UMass would have a coach by now.

From what I hear there may be a few people out there who have interviewed in the last couple days that neither I or the media have been able to identify.

Now for the few updates.

The Cedar Rapids majority owner does not want to replace his coach.

The Republican had this article on Jon Quick’s agent, a Longmeadow native.

Eddie Olczyk as well as the father of Hockey East, Lou Lamoriello, are heading to the US Hockey Hall of Fame.

Carlson/Coaching Search Update

Ok, lots to cover tonight, so let’s get going.

Earlier today College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni reported that UMass had offered USHL coach Mark Carlson its head coaching position.  Thus far there has been no confirmation of that report.  I personally have not been able to confirm that report either.  Meloni mentions the report of Carlson being offered in this interesting piece focusing in on how the current players are faring through all this as well as some must read quotes by Rocco Carzo on Toot’s final season as coach.

Matt Vautour posted a lengthy article on Carlson where John McCutcheon denies an offer was made, but the story does say Carlson is considered the top candidate.  In the article Carlson is endorsed by former Minuteman and Cedar Rapids RoughRider Casey Wellman (who will be staying in the Rangers organization apparently).

Earlier this story out of Iowa confirmed Carlson as interviewing for the job but had not been offered.

Overall, if reports are true that UMass is on the road to offering Carlson and he actually accepts it I’ll be very happy.  Carlson has a lot of the qualities that I was hoping for in a coach.  He’s done nothing but win in his time at the USHL, developing some of the best young American players there and at USA Hockey.  He has experience as an assistant at two Hockey East schools and played in the conference as well.  In talking to many people about him in the last two days I have yet to hear anything negative about him.  I think he’d be a great choice to lead the program going forward.  At the very least I’m happy that McCutcheon and the search committee are turning to these types of candidates versus good coaches from lesser conferences who would be an awkward fit for the UMass job.

Other UMass blogs are behind Carlson as well.

However, if he is the top candidate that doesn’t mean UMass has stopped looking at others.  USHR reported tonight at UNH Associate Head Coach Scott Borek interviewed for the position today.  Borek was a name that was speculated upon early on.  He’s been an assistant at UNH for the last 10 years and was head coach at Lake Superior State for five unspectacular seasons in the late 90s.  It sounds that other candidates have interviewed in recent days as well.

Hopefully UMass will have its coach no later than the end of the week but if fans have learned anything from this search it’s not to get your hopes up until you see someone behind a podium.

Boston University released their schedule today so the UMass schedule is almost known now.  I’ve updated the schedule page with the new dates.  It appears the three BC games will likely happen during the weekends of October 19th-20th and January 18th-19th.  Assuming two games will be played in January, that means three of the first four games will be played against BU and BC and then UNH will follow.  Trial by fire for whoever is named coach.

Some sad news recently out of Lowell where the Riverhawks lost an honorary team member to cancer.

The Kitchener Rangers out of the OHL are suing Michigan’s student paper for reporting they offered a Wolverine commit $200K to jump to major junior.  Imagine how many more players they can pay if they win the $1 million they’re seeking!

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