So in the course of a few hours today UMass reportedly had their new coach, perhaps an unpopular one with many fans, and then had to move on to Plan B Plan C Plan D(?) when Rand Pecknold decided to stay at Quinnipiac. Rumors started late yesterday that Pecknold, who interviewed with McCutcheon twice in the last week or so, was offered the position and was deciding whether to accept. Early in the afternoon College Hockey News reported that Pecknold was “ready to accept” the offer. Later however Vautour posted this saying “UMass people had reasons to believe the deal was done and Pecknold was coming” but that was no longer the case. Just before USCHO reported that he decided to stay after Quinnipiac made a counteroffer. As one Section Uer commented, “UMass was Umiliated”, referring to UNH’s Dick Umile using a UMass offer not once, but twice (1993 and 2000) to get himself a better deal from New Hampshire. Neither Umile or UMass has won a national championship since.
In the end Pecknold leaving UMass at the altar may be a good thing. A good amount of fans, some former and even some current players, and I didn’t like the idea of him as coach. He’s obviously a good coach to rack up as many wins as he has and is the main reason why Quinnipiac went from Division II to the ECAC so quickly. But the fact is the complaint of UMass fans advocating for a coaching change has been the consistent finishes at the bottom of the conference, lack of NCAA appearances, and late season collapses. All of those things can be used to describe Pecknold with the Bobcats. Quinnipiac has finished 5th, 8th, 7th, 7th, and 6th in the last five years. They’ve gone to just one NCAA tournament under his watch, back in 2003 when they were a member of the MAAC (Atlantic Hockey’s predecessor). And the teams recently have had collapses that rival what UMass fans have experienced the last few years, including starting 12-1-0 in 2009-10 only to go 8-17-2 for the balance of the season. Maybe things would’ve been different in Amherst, but his accomplishments didn’t necessarily suggest he’d be able to accomplish any more than former coach Toot Cahoon. In fact, Cahoon actually won an ECAC title in the league.
So where does UMass go from here? Keep going down the list I guess. The problem is, as far as I can tell, they’re already getting pretty far down the list. Reports are that Merrimack’s Mark Dennehy and former grad assistant Darren Yopyk are not interested. Now Pecknold has said thanks but no thanks. What’s sad to think is how this reflects on the UMass program. Last season Providence, with their miserable seasons recently and horrible facilities, was able to lure one of the hottest coaches in the ECAC and the country to campus in the form of Nate Leaman. UMass just got told no by the guy who finished seven places behind him in Leaman’s last season in the ECAC. Yikes. Maybe this job isn’t as highly sought after as John McCutcheon keeps telling the press.
I’ve heard conflicting information about the interest level of USHL coach Jim Montgomery but it sounds like even if he was interested John McCutcheon may not feel his background is a good fit. We know they’ve interviewed Frank Anzalone which as far as I can tell has pretty much baffled the college hockey world. They’ve also interviewed Mike Cavanaugh, but he has been passed over for so many jobs you have to start to think it’s for a reason. Maybe they go after Holy Cross’ Paul Pearl who Vautour previously mentioned. Who’s left? The top candidates in my view will not interview. At the same time I’m hearing some qualified candidates, familiar names to those around the program, have already been eliminated while others are hesitant to pursue the position given the reports of a lack of institutional support for the program. On top of all that, we’ve now entered July. Oh, and today UMass got publically rebuffed for the position. Quite frankly, in my opinion, this coaching search is in shambles. If the athletic department was going to prove to the fans and the rest of college hockey that they’re fully invested in the program and doing what it takes to win, they’re failing to do so. It’s time for McCutcheon to take a step back in the process, involve his search committee so that they can use their individual perspectives and expertise during this time, and put together not just a list of the best candidates to lead UMass hockey going forward, but a strategy to actually land the best of those candidates. So far how this coaching search has played out in the public as well as behind closed doors, coming on the heels of a poorly handled situation involving Cahoon leaving, gives me little confidence in the immediate future of the hockey program under this administration.
It’s not just the fans who are getting frustrated by this summer of discontent for UMass hockey. Here’s what former captain Paul Dainton had to said on Twitter:
Hey Umass Athletic Department, maybe its time to hop on the bandwagon and get behind your hockey team
#MixInSomeSupport #FTB #UmassHockey
Graduated, no longer wearing the “C”, but still a leader for UMass hockey. There’s a reason why Dainton is one of the most respected people ever to take the ice for the Minutemen.
He followed that Tweet with:
Regardless of the outcome, trust in each other, band together as a team, and take dead aim
There are, thankfully, some other things going on in the world of UMass hockey.
Mike Pereira, Kevin Boyle, K.J. Tiefenwerth, and Oleg Yevenko are all done with Islanders camp while Eddie Olczyk is on his way home from Carolina. Conor Allen is still out in Vancouver and the Canucks site has a lot of good photos of their camp.
Meanwhile, Joel Hanley started camp with the Columbus Blue Jackets today. After the season he put together last year he was deserving of an invite somewhere.
There is some great news coming out of the AHL tonight as Alex Berry has signed with the Hershey Bears. Berry suffered a horrific compound fracture to his arm at training camp for Portland last year where quick work by the trainers there is credited with saving his life after an artery was severed. But here he is, getting past some serious ups and downs on the road to recovery, back in hockey. Today was a tough day if you follow UMass hockey, but that news will make sure it ends on a good note.
A couple more signings for Minutemen in the minors. Mike Kostka has signed a two way deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose AHL club he helped defeat in last season’s finals. Meanwhile AHL All-Star Matt Irwin signed a one year deal to stay with the Sharks organization.