Cahoon, staff ready for 2009 season

By Mike Gillmeister

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In playing a team throughout the course of 23 years, both teams can familiarize one another with the opponent’s tendencies. Such is the case with UMass coach Don Cahoon and the Rensselaer hockey team.

Cahoon and the Massachusetts hockey team face the Engineers in the milestone game Thursday night, with RPI leading the all-time series, 11-10-4.

His record against RPI dates back to Cahoon’s tenure as head coach at Princeton, where he faced the Engineers multiple times each season.

UMass is Cahoon’s sixth team in his collegiate coaching career, having come most recently from the Tigers in 2000. In his nine years at Princeton, Cahoon compiled a .396 winning percentage.

Coaching in any collegiate sport for more than two decades is a feat for any person, and Cahoon, now in his twenty-third year, said that you can judge a person by the kind of company that they keep. He takes this saying seriously, as he employs it in his coaching staff. Such company includes the likes of assistant coaches Red Gendron and Len Quesnelle, strength and conditioning coach Chris Boyko and goaltender coach Mike Buckley.

Jeff Lang is a graduate assistant in the program and Josh Penn is the equipment manager.

“To last in this business is to become a student of the game,” Cahoon said. “I think that our staff is as good as anyone’s out there, and the proof will be in the way this team responds to us and the way this team competes, and hopefully continues to improve.”

Each member of the coaching staff enters this season having served on Cahoon’s staff for at least the past three seasons.

Boyko enters his ninth season on Cahoon’s staff, and with each new coaching addition to the Minutemen, a positive for UMass has followed. With Boyko anchoring the Minutemen’s conditioning program in 2001, the power play unit showed immediate improvement. The defense held stronger, giving up 13 fewer goals than in 2000. Also, after learning Boyko’s methods after a full season, UMass’ record improved from 8-24-2 to 19-17-1 while climbing the ladder of the Hockey East rankings, from ninth to third.

By the time both Quesnelle and Gendron joined Cahoon’s staff in 2005 and 2006, the Minutemen were no longer at the bottom of the conference. In 2007, UMass spielautomaten online finished fourth in the conference with a record of 21-13-5, the program’s highest ever win total.

Attendance is at an all-time high as well for the Minutemen. In 2006, average attendance for a home game was a record 5,140, and the last time the Mullins Center had less than 3,600 people for a hockey game was during the 2002 season (2,796).

Buckley enters his third season as goaltenders coach for the Minutemen, continuing to guide junior goalie Paul Dainton. Last season, Dainton allowed 66 goals compared to 83 as a freshman, including two goals or less 13 times, and had 30-plus saves in nine games last season.

As long as his current coaching staff has been alongside him, Cahoon believes that results show in more ways than concrete statistics.

“I think it’s shown itself in the type of kid we’ve been able to recruit, and the type of culture that we’ve been able to create here,” said Cahoon. “I think the people behind the scenes with our program are highly professional, totally motivated and I think our team knows that. Our history is now.”

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at [email protected]