This week has been an unexpected one at St. Lawrence. When Greg Carvel took the head coaching job at UMass, he left his alma mater and the school that he grew up following. I am not sure I can fully explain how much of a shock this was to those around the program, in the administration and even the players. None of which had any idea this was coming. What made it even more unexpected, was that Carvel recently signed a five year extension to coach the Saints team that he had heading in the right direction. When opportunities arise, human nature tells us to jump at it, which is exactly what Carvel did and kudos to him.
Right now, SLU will look to pick up the pieces in a situation that is rare in a college hockey. Unlike most jobs that come open in college hockey the cupboard is half full, so to say.
The Saints have a great nucleus returning that will make the job attractive to a coach that may just be looking for an opportunity. It has, arguably, the best three defensemen in the ECAC returning next year, as Gavin Bayreuther, Eric Sweetman and Nolan Gluchowski all return. Of course the other piece, is also the most important. Its stud goaltender, Kyle Hayton will return for his junior season. Hayton, will enter the season as a Richter Award favorite and on the Hobey Watch List. Heck, I have already started at looking at preseason and this should be a top four team in the league, regardless of what happens.
SLU has quite the history, it has a big rival in Clarkson and it has a great old barn. All of these factors make this an attractive job. Of course the money is tight, so there is always the chance that another heads to greener pastures in the future. Money although tight has never taken away from the quality on the ice. It also has a network of coaches that coached under legendary coach, Joe Marsh.
Lets look at Carvel as an example. He had many years experience in the NHL ranks as an assistant coach and he came back to SLU to be a head coach. One should wonder if there is another waiting in the wings that might just step right in and inherit a team that will probably be near the top in the ECAC preseason rankings. Carvel left the program better than he received it and that was. The build has been pretty remarkable in the last few years. The Saints will be looking for someone to continue that work.
I have been told there has been interest in recent days by at least two with impressive resumes, NHL and pro hockey backgrounds. One has to wonder if these candidates are just gauging the waters, rather than going full out. It should also be pointed out this list has a lot of names that are either local or have connections. I have talked with many alums in the last few days and it seems like this is the direction SLU will probably go.
Also a key point in all this, is that this will be it Athletic Director Bob Durocher’s first hire. Durocher has only been on the job for just about a year. His background of being the longtime soccer coach tells me he knows the importance of looking outside the program, but he will probably make the safe bet and keep it to someone that has been in the family, so to say.
Here is a list of names to keep an eye on. Before we get started these are just some names I have gotten in talking with many people around the league and in the SLU community. It is always funny in these instances how often we miss the mark. I am just confident these are the guys that will be and should be involved in the process:
Current Associate Coach
Hurlbut was named the person in charge, in the interim, almost immediately after the news broke that Carvel had indeed left the program. He is a former SLU player and is the current associate coach. As a player, Hurlbut was a first team all american and an all-ECAC selection, in 1988-89. Hurlbut had 86 points and led the Saints blueline in his time as a player in Canton. His pro experience could also be beneficial. He played in 29 NHL games and spent the better half of 13 seasons in the AHL and IHL. The Saints in recent years have excelled with him as Carvel’s right-hand man.
Hurlbut is the clear favorite if he wants it. If St. Lawrence truly wants to keep the hire in house, this will probably be the guy. He has been a part of the Saints coaching staff since 2002 and grew up in nearby Massena, NY. The last time this job was up, Hurlbut wasn’t ready. He hadn’t been elevated to the associate coaching role, yet, and had only been a full time assistant for three years. He was a volunteer assistant from 2002-2008. If anyone epitomizes what SLU does, it is him. This is why if he wants it, the job is probably his to have.
Current St. Lawrence Womens coach
This is another pick that would keep it in house, but it would require an adjustment we don’t see often. Wells was a longtime assistant on the mens side, from 1999-2008. He was also the associate head coach from 2003-2008. He has been the SLU womens coach since 2008 and has been pretty successful in the role with a 148-113-35 career mark.
He is another SLU alum and Marsh disciple who could be successful in gaining the good wills of alums and the locals pretty quick. The women’s to mens jump is an unknown, but then again Wells is very qualified for the position.
The two above may seem to have a leg up to fans but there are many others out there that deserve an opportunity, or are qualified for the position that should be considered. A few of these, also have ties to St. Lawrence.
Current Quinnipiac Associate coach
No open head coaching position in the ECAC, or for that matter in the east, should go without mentioning Quinnipiac’s Bill Riga. Riga has been the catalyst of QU’s recent success, as the recruiting coordinator for the Bobcats and an associate coach for Rand Pecknold. He is everything SLU would want in a coach, less the lack of connection to Canton and the North Country. Riga deserves a chance at a job and seemingly every job these days has him mentioned.
Current Providence Assistant, Former SLU Assistant
Mayotte is a former SLU assistant and an alum of Union.. He is young and would bring a ton of energy to the position. He is also wealth of knowledge and a rising star among college hockey coaches. He has been working under arguably the best coach in college hockey right now, Nate Leaman, at Providence. This experience has probably prepared him for a shot. He would become one of the youngest coaches in division I, at 33 years old. If chosen and successful this choice has a chance to be long lasting. Whether or not Mayotte is fully ready is probably up for debate.
Former Clarkson Coach, Current Charlotte Checkers (AHL) Head Coach
Dave Starman of CBS-Sports brought this name up yesterday in a tweet and on Ken Schott’s, Slapschotts’s, radio show.I really had to think about it, actually, but I have decided to include him. He has a great resume, but I am not sure he would come back to the college game. Although, at 59, it may be enticing to get closer to home approaching retirement. His wife is also a judge in Massena, NY area, so it wouldn’t be far fetched to think he would consider it. With the success he has had at every level, if he is interested, he should definitely be considered a favorite.
In recent years, another AHL head coach, Mike Havilland, has come back to coach the college game. He coaches at Colorado College. Morris’ local roots would be a big plus and he was also an assistant at SLU for three seasons in the mid-80’s before leading Clarkson to its glory days. At Clarkson, Morris had a 306-156-42 record, led the Golden Knights to a frozen four and nine NCAA tournaments in 14 seasons. As if the SLU/Clarkson rivalry needed any more bad blood, this might just give it an extra edge.
This could be one of many names that could surface in the coming weeks, but then again it could possibly come with baggage if he is chosen; his ending at Clarkson was interesting at best. I would read this piece from editor, Adam Wodon, to get an idea how it ended. If anyone knows how to recruit in the North Country, it would be Morris. The more I think about this one, the more I think it is more than a remote possibility.
Current Clarkson Womens Coach, SLU alum
Although I think this one is unlikely, there is no denying what Desrosiers has done at Clarkson with the women’s hockey program. He was the co-head coach there with his wife, Shannon, for six years and the last two he has taken on full responsibility of that program. Under his tutelage, the Golden Knights are 188-84-35. Although he played professionally and four years at SLU, Desrosiers has never coached in a mens’ program. Whether or not Desrosiers would leave what he built at Clarkson is probably up in the air. I will say this one is probably unlikely.
One other name I have heard thrown around is George Roll, who much like Morris had a rocky ending at Clarkson. Roll is currently coach of Division III Nazareth. He might be a long shot, but who knows. He had some success at Clarkson, until his ending there. Paul Pearl is also a name that pops up in all these coaching searches these days. The Harvard Associate coach left Holy Cross a couple years back and took a demotion in the process, going from Head Coach to associate coach. I just can’t see him going to the North Country.
Whatever SLU does, there will be options. It is a great job, with a great old barn and at the moment the program is heading in the right direction. The opportunity for quick success was left by Carvel.