SCHENECTADY — Josh Hauge knows he has a lot of work to do to return the Union College men’s hockey program to the prominence it enjoyed last decade.
He’s ready to take on that challenge.
Hauge was introduced Friday as the new head coach of the Dutchmen inside the Stanley O’Brien ’74 Center for Collaboration and Engagement on the Union campus. Previously a Clarkson assistant coach, Hauge will take over from interim head coach John Ronan. Ronan ran Union for the final 17 games of the season after Rick Bennett resigned Jan. 28 following an investigation into his coaching style. Bennett, Union’s all-time winningest hockey coach, guided the Dutchmen to the 2014 NCAA title.
Hauge’s hiring was the latest piece of recent major news involving the Union program as it looks to the future. His hire came days after it was revealed the state will provide $10 million in funding for a new arena at Mohawk Harbor that Union’s hockey teams will call home, and that development came a few months after Union was granted the ability to award athletic scholarships, which will be phased in starting next season.
Since winning the NCAA title, the Dutchmen have reached the NCAA tournament just once, in 2017. They were 8-25-4 in 2019-20, their worst record under Bennett. After sitting out the 2020-21 season because of the coronavirus pandemic, Union was 14-19-4 this past season, finished seventh in ECAC Hockey, swept Princeton in the best-of-three ECACH first round before getting swept, ironically, by Hauge’s Golden Knights in the quarterfinals.
Early Friday, Hauge met with the Clarkson players to say goodbye after accepting the Union job Thursday, then traveled to Schenectady to meet his new players.
Asked what it will take to get the Union program back on track, Hauge said. “I think for us, it starts with the group we have in the locker room right now and getting those guys to set the culture and the standard. I mentioned to them, when I was able to talk to them on campus, that I don’t know how far we’re going to get this year. I can’t guarantee them anything. I can’t make any promises. I’m not telling them we’re going to have an undefeated season, [that] we’re going to be lifting up a trophy at the end of the year.
“But Union College will [win], and it’s going to happen, and they’re going to set the foundation for it. And when that time comes, and when it does happen — hopefully it’s this year, but if it’s not — they’re going to be my first phone call and I’m going to thank them for setting the standard.”
When asked what attracted him to the job, Hauge became emotional as he looked at his wife Allison, and young sons Hanley and Landry.
“I love where I was at,” Hauge said. “I love Clarkson. I was extremely invested into the community. It was a really hard talk to have with the boys and my wife and tell them it’s time. But this college and the ability to help kids academically and get them to do great things [was intriguing], and, then the conference we’re in, I know you can have success.
“When I got to Clarkson, we were I think a eighth-, ninth-place team. And I’ve seen that change happen first-hand, and I like to think I was a big part of that change. We had a lot of help along the way, but I think I had a lot to do with that. And now, I get to run that. I think five years ago, this job, as crazy as this sounds, isn’t as appealing to me. It’s [appealing now] because I can put my stamp on it and I can really run with it right away. We, as a group, are going to do that.”
The College Hockey News first reported news Friday morning of Hauge’s hire.
Ronan was among five finalists for the job. Other finalists were former Union players Joel Beal (a Providence College assistant coach) and Alex Todd (head coach at Division III Trine University). The other finalist was Harvard assistant coach James Marcou.
Having a Union alumnus be named the new coach was not a priority for Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin, a 1993 graduate of the college.
“We basically wanted to find the best candidate for where we are right now,” McLaughlin said. “I listened to a lot of people as we went through this. We had a very large search committee. We made sure that we did a thorough review of all of our candidates while on campus, reference checks, all of those different things there. And through all the feedback of the search committee, and really good feedback from the team, this is where we arrived.”
Ronan and fellow assistant coach TJ Manastersky attended the press conference, as well as several of the Dutchmen and ECACH commissioner Steve Hagwell. Ronan and Manastersky didn’t meet with reporters after the press conference ended.
Hauge did speak with both assistant coaches.
“I just want to make sure that they were doing all right,” Hauge said. “I think this is a tough situation for them, and I want to be respectful to them because I think they’re both great coaches and they did a great job down the stretch. I thought they did outstanding. I want to give them their time, I want to give them their space, but I want to talk with them and I will want to see what they think. It’s a difficult situation, but I think a lot of both of them, and we’ll kind of go from there.”
Forward Owen Farris and goalie Connor Murphy, both rising seniors, liked the message Hauge delivered to the Dutchmen.
“One thing that really impressed me was that he really focused on building a program here,” Farris said. “I know I’m only going to have one more year as a senior, and I want to make the most of that, but when I leave here, I want to look back and see something that I was a part of, and that’s continuing to build toward something better beyond hockey. . . . He wanted to build something here, and that’s something that I really took to heart and was very impressed by.”
Murphy said: “The biggest thing that I got from our meeting was that he’s the kind of guy that’s going to push everybody, and he’s going to be fair at the same time. I feel like it’s going to be a good mixture of having guys work hard and respecting him, but he’s also going to be there for guys that are going to need him in certain situations, if they’re not playing or if things aren’t going the right way. [It] seems like he’s going to be an easy guy to go talk to about things like that.”
Hauge, who turned 43 last Sunday, has been an assistant coach under head coach Casey Jones at Clarkson since 2015. Before that, he was an assistant coach and director of scouting for the Fargo Force of the U.S. Hockey League. He was also a head coach and general manager of the Tri-City Storm before going to Fargo. He also previously coached the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League for five years, compiling a 131-58-45 record that included the 2011 Robertson Cup championship.
Jones said he was thrilled for Hauge.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “He’s a tremendous coach. He works extremely hard. He’s someone that has great player relationships. I think he’ll do a fantastic job.”