NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack College is in the process of narrowing its search for a new men’s hockey coach, and candidates could be brought on campus for interviews as soon as next week.
Merrimack is filling the position that was vacated when Mark Dennehy was terminated earlier this month.
Ed. Note — This story will appear in Friday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
“We’ve narrowed down the pool of candidates,” Merrimack AD Jeremy Gibson told The Eagle Tribune. “We’ve had a lot of conversations, and I’m very pleased with the depth and caliber of the candidates. We’re getting close (to a hire).”
Gibson expects the hiring to be complete in the next two weeks.
Merrimack has received interest from coaches that span every NCAA conference, as well as junior hockey, Europe and the professional ranks, including some interest from NHL assistant coaches.
When questioned about the rumored booster involvement in the coaching change, Gibson said that the decision to make the move came down to a belief that Merrimack can be more competitive, on a more consistent basis.
“The only goal with this move was to get the program to a higher level, and have it be more sustainable,” he said. “That goes along with the investments in the program. With the investment in the facilities, especially the locker room and our training facilities, the expansion of the hockey rink, we feel that we can be more competitive, more consistently. We are fully invested in the success of the hockey program. We’re fully invested in the success of all of our programs, and I think you’ve seen that success with some of our other programs.”
Conversations with coaching candidates have included a number of topics, from recruiting to player development and style of play.
Gibson pointed to a similar transition made two years ago, with men’s basketball. Gibson hired former Merrimack guard Joe Gallo to run that program, and the Warriors have made the NCAA Tournament in his both of his first two seasons after missing the NE10 playoffs and graduating a large senior class in the year prior to his hiring.
Gibson also pointed to the construction of the new Merrimack Stadium, which will help almost all of Merrimack’s outdoor teams. The Merrimack football program just signed one of its deepest recruiting classes in program history, in large part due to that stadium investment.
“Sometimes a new voice is needed,” Gibson said. “But no one is trying to take away from the accomplishments that Mark Dennehy and prior Merrimack hockey teams have had. Our past success is a foundation we can use to build from.
“You look at the success that men’s basketball has had, our men’s lacrosse team was ranked No. 1 in the country and competed for a national championship and softball and women’s lacrosse are now nationally ranked. The bar continues to be raised for the college, not just athletics. We want to raise the bar for hockey and those student-athletes.”
When candidates come to campus for interviews, they’ll meet with a search committee that will include Merrimack head coaches and athletic staff.
“We’ve set a new bar in a lot of ways, and hockey is the next piece of it,” Gibson said. “I can’t even count the number of conversations I’ve had with people in the hockey world, from college hockey to the professional ranks. There are positive perceptions of Merrimack among those in the hockey community. People believe we can have a heightened level of success here, and we’re using those conversations to help shape this decision.”