When I first met Tyler Hynes when he joined the Union men’s hockey team for the 2014-15 season, he seemed like a great kid. He was very enthusiastic. He may not have had the most talent on a team that was getting set to defend its national championship, but he worked hard and was going to do his best to make an impact.
Watching him during his first two years, I thought that, down the line, he could be a hockey coach.
Hynes, a Guilderland native, just completed his fourth season with the NCAA Division III Wilkes University men’s hockey program, and his third as head coach. He guided the Colonels to a 20-5-1 record, including a 15-2-1 record in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference. They reached the UCHC tournament championship game.
In his three seasons as the Colonels’ head coach Hynes has compiled a 46-19-1 record. Certainly, Hynes is making a case to be an NCAA hockey Division I head coach someday.
Hynes was in town last Friday for the Union hockey golf outing at Stadium Golf Course. During our conversation, I asked Hynes what his goal is for his coaching career.
“To be the head coach at Union, eventually,” Hynes said.
Of course, the 28-year-old Hynes knows that is a long, long way from happening. He is very happy with the school’s hiring of Josh Hauge as the new head coach, and he wants Hauge to succeed and return the program to prominence.
“I’m hoping that Josh does a tremendous job, and I think there’s a lot of excitement around the program right now,” Hynes said. “It’s not my time right now, and I recognize that. But when my time comes, I’m going to be ready. It’s kind of cool for me now knowing the program is in great hands. To be able to watch it grow and be a part of it as an alumni, and then when the time comes, put my name in the hat and really make a run at it.”
Wilkes started its hockey program in 2018-19, and Hynes joined head coach Brett Riley’s staff as a graduate assistant coach. When Riley left after the season to become an assistant coach at Colgate, Wilkes promoted Hynes to head coach. He is enjoying his job.
“One thing that I always was as a player was kind of the underdog,” Hynes said. “That’s what I like about coaching at Wilkes is in the David-and-Goliath matchup, we’re the David, and that’s how I felt at Union. What was so exciting the year they won the national championship, it was like, wow, that program is elevated. That’s what I’m trying to do at Wiles. We have a lot of good kids and good people.
“I was really surprised at the level change. I went from practicing at Union and six months later, coaching a Division III team and was very impressed by the talent. Obviously, it’s not the same, but we got a lot of good players too.”
I asked Hynes about his head coach at Union, Rick Bennett, and what it was like playing for him. He praised Bennett, who resigned Jan. 28 after 11 seasons as the team’s head coach. Last Thursday, Bennett was named head coach of the ECHL’s newest team, the Savannah Ghost Pirates.
“I talked to him after everything happened,” Hynes said. “I think so highly of Coach Bennett. He changed my life for the better. He’s made an impact on me. As somebody who didn’t play very much, I didn’t really help the team on the ice a whole lot. But I felt like I had value off of it, and he recognized that and for that I’m forever grateful to him.”
The big playing career highlight for Hynes was scoring the game-winning goal against RPI his senior season in the 2018 Mayor’s Cup. It was the first game he dressed that season.
“I remember everything about that night,” Hynes said. “To say that moment was a flagpole in my life is an understatement. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of toil that no one saw. Going back to Coach Bennett, he gave me that chance. I didn’t really deserve to be in the lineup that night.
“But believing in people, giving them that little bit of a shot, I look back at [that] now and say thank you. That’s kind of my role as a coach, finding the guys that deserve that shot.”
Hynes deserves his shot to be a Division I head coach. I believe it will happen one day.
NEW UNION RECRUIT
Hauge continues to build the roster for the 2022-23 season.
Wednesday night, he got another commitment for next season when Nick Young, a defenseman for the St. Cloud Norseman of the North American Hockey League, announced on Twitter that he was joining the Dutchmen.
I am very excited and honored to announce that I have committed to play Division 1 hockey at Union College and further my education,” Young tweeted. “I want to thank my family, coaches, and teammates for helping me get to where I am today. I also want to thank God for guiding me here.”
Young was the captain of the Norseman this season. They won the league’s Central Division title with a 41-16-3 record and reached the Robinson Cup semifinals.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Young had five goals and 17 assists in 60 regular-season games. He added a goal and an assist in 11 playoff games. He is from Raleigh, North Carolina, home of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.
In 117 career NAHL games, Young had 10 goals and 26 assists.
RPI recently announced its award winners, and forward Ture Linden was named the team’s Most Valuable Player as well as the top forward.
Linden, who is transferring to Penn State, led the Engineers in scoring with 20 goals and 19 assists in 44 games. He has a year of eligibility remaining.
Defenseman Jake Johnson was named the Best Defensive Player and best defenseman. He had two goals, 14 assists and a +5 defensive rating in 40 games. Like Linden, Johnson is transferring. He is staying in ECAC Hockey with Quinnipiac. Johnson has one year of eligibility.
Another player that is transferring, Ottoville Leppanen, won the Unsung Hero Award. Leppanen will play his final season of college hockey at Merrimack.
Goalie Jack Watson won the Top Freshman Award as well as the top goalie.
The other winners were defenseman Jack Agnew (Most Improved Player), goalie Linden Marshall (Scholar Athletic Award), junior forward Rory Herrman (Community Service Award) and senior forward Jakub Lacka (Most Inspirational Player).