June 30, 2005
Merrimack Names Dennehy Head Coach

Inside College Hockey Staff Report

Merrimack has hired former Massachusetts associate head coach Mark Dennehy its new head coach, school president Richard J. Santagati announced Thursday.

Dennehy has been the associate head coach at UMass since 2000. From 1999-2000, he was head hockey coach at Fairfield and prior to that had served as assistant coach at Princeton.

"I'm extremely excited," Dennehy told Inside College Hockey on Thursday. "I also understand the responsibility involved, and how difficult it is to coach in Hockey East. I believe I'm up to that challenge."

"Mark's energy and enthusiasm was evident throughout the interview process," said Santagati. "We are very excited that our new head coach has such a strong connection with students, outstanding experience and knowledge of Hockey East, and a demonstrated commitment to excellence."

Dennehy emerged from a group of finalists that also included Bruce Crowder, Greg Drechsel, Chris Kiene and Paul Pearl. He replaces Chris Serino, who resigned April 29 to become the athletic director and hockey coach at Malden Catholic High School

The five final candidates participated in a day-long interview process on campus where they met with interim athletic director Joe Iarrobino and college president Santagati. Candidates also met with current players, and representatives from human resources, development, admissions, and financial aid.

Drechsel was informed on Monday that he wouldn't be offered the job. "It is a very critical point for that program," he said. "They know that they haven't had success and the charge of the new coach is to generate a measure of credibility for the program. Then they'll have to see if they are willing to compete in Hockey East and at the Division I level."

Dennehy left his interview with a very positive impression of the school's support for the hockey program.

"I've already been in one situation at Fairfield where I thought I could take on the world," he said. "Looking back on that situation, and with what happened two years after I left (when Fairfield dropped its program), I was taking notes throughout the interview process on where everyone felt hockey fit in at Merrimack College.

"I wouldn't have taken the position if I wasn't comfortable with their commitment," he added. "From President Santagati on down through the administration and the alumni, they were committed to making things happen."

As evidenced by his career at Princeton, Fairfield and Massachusetts, Dennehy is comfortable in the role of the underdog, something he said began with his childhood in a single-parent home in Dorchester, Mass. At Princeton and UMass he was part of impressive turnarounds; the Tigers reached the NCAA Tournament in 1998 and the Minutemen came within one goal of the NCAAs in 2004.

Dennehy points to two areas where he plans to focus his efforts in order to help the Warriors improve on their 8-26-2 record in 2004-05 (1-22-1 and last place in Hockey East). The first is recruiting, where he plans to use Merrimack's small-school status to help differentiate it from its competitors.

"In the industry of education today, a lot of these schools have become corporations," he said. "Kids can get lost, and Merrimack is not one of those places."

The second area he hopes will lead to more immediate results, with an initial measure of success being one of the eight playoff berths in the now 10-team Hockey East.

"We have to get everyone involved in the program to take a lunch-pail, blue-collar approach," he said. "I've seen it take hold at Princeton and at UMass, and I'm confident that we can be that type of team at Merrimack."

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