Schenectady

Interviews for vacant Union men’s hockey head coaching job start Wednesday

Union College athletic director Jim McLaughlin speaks at a news conference at Messa Rink announcing men's hockey head coach Rick Bennett's resignation on Jan. 28.
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Union College athletic director Jim McLaughlin speaks at a news conference at Messa Rink announcing men's hockey head coach Rick Bennett's resignation on Jan. 28.

SCHENECTADY — Interviews for the next Union College men’s hockey coach begin Wednesday.

In all likelihood, the next permanent head coach of the Dutchmen won’t be known for a couple of weeks.

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Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin said on Tuesday that five candidates will be interviewed, two this week and three next week. McLaughlin did not release the names of the candidates.

But The Daily Gazette has learned that two former Union associate head coaches under ex-head coach Rick Bennett won’t be in the running.

Joe Dumais, who was on Bennett’s staff from 2012-2016, has pulled himself out of consideration. Dumais, who is currently the associate head coach at Quinnipiac under Rand Pecknold, confirmed in an email Tuesday that he is not in the running.

Dumais, at one point, was considered the leading candidate for the job. He helped guide the Dutchmen to two Frozen Four appearances, including the 2014 national title, then returned to Quinnipiac — his alma mater — following the 2015-16 season.

Also out of the running is Dartmouth associate head coach Jason Tapp, who was on the Union staff starting as a volunteer assistant coach in 2009 under then-head coach Nate Leaman before becoming a full-time assistant coach under Bennett in 2011 when Bennett replaced Leaman. Tapp was promoted to associate head coach when Dumais left.

Tapp, who left Union for Dartmouth following the 2019-20 season, confirmed in a text message that he’s not in the running and declined further comment.

In an interview with The Daily Gazette days prior to Dartmouth’s game at Union on Feb. 26, Tapp talked about his interest in the Union job.

“Obviously, Union’s a great place and I have fond memories, and it’s a great academic institution and you work with good people,” Tapp said. “And, now, with scholarships coming up and the possibility of a new rink, obviously it’s a very attractive job. There will be a ton of qualified applicants. It’s a really good job.”

McLaughlin declined to name the potential candidates, but a source with knowledge of the situation told The Daily Gazette that at least two former Union players are in the running. Those two players are Joel Beal and Alex Todd.

Beal is currently an assistant coach under Leaman at Providence College, and was a forward for the Dutchmen from 2001 to 2005.

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Todd is currently the head coach at Division III Trine University in Angola, Indiana, and was a defenseman and forward for the Dutchmen from 1997 to 2001.

Another former Union player, Doug Christiansen, is believed to be in the running. Christansen, who was a defenseman and forward for Union from 1998 to 2002, recently resigned as head coach and general manager of the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, a sign that he was going to apply for the Union job.

Both Beal and Christiansen have declined to comment. Todd did not return several messages left by The Daily Gazette.

Union interim head coach John Ronan is also a candidate. Ronan, who has been running the team since Bennett’s resignation Jan. 28, also declined to comment.

College Hockey Insider reported Tuesday that Union has spoken with UMass associate head coach Jared DeMichael and Harvard assistant coach James Marcou. DeMichael declined to comment on the report. Marcou could not be reached for comment.

Bennett coached the Dutchmen for 11 seasons, including Union’s 2014 NCAA title team, before his resignation earlier this year. Prior to serving as Union head coach, he was an assistant/associate head coach for six seasons under Leaman. Bennett was promoted to head coach the same day when Leaman resigned to take over at Providence after the 2010-11 season, so this is McLaughlin’s first search for a men’s hockey coach since he became athletic director in May 2005. Leaman was hired as Union head coach by then-athletic director Val Belmonte in 2003.

“It’s important for us to get it right for all of our staff here, for all of our coaches,” McLaughlin said. “This is an important position in a student-athlete’s experience in all of our programs, so it’s really important we find the right individual to lead, to be a teacher, a mentor, educator and coach to these young men and women on our campus.”

McLaughlin has said from the outset that he wants to have a coach in place by the time the college hockey coaches convention starts April 20 in Naples, Florida. The recent firing of head coach Albie O’Connell by Boston University won’t speed up Union’s hiring timeline.

“We’ve stuck to where we’ve been,” McLaughlin said. “Our goal has always been to try and get an announcement prior to the coaches convention.”

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