Former Niagara and UMass Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald was named assistant coach for the University of Massachusetts men's ice hockey team as announced on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 by head coach Don "Toot" Cahoon. MacDonald replaces Red Gendron who was named the associate head coach at Yale.
"Blaise was unquestionably the best candidate for the position and for our needs. He comes with a great deal experience, a great deal of enthusiasm and a great positive feel. He is the most dynamic of all the people who were out there," said Cahoon.
"I am really happy to be working with him again; the familiar relationship that we have played a big role in making this an easy decision. I'm really fortunate that I've been able to find another capable and well-schooled assistant. I've had a whole series of them from Bill Gilligan to Mark Dennehy to Red Gendron to Len Quesnelle; that now continues with Blaise. I've been blessed to have had so many great and knowledgeable assistants throughout my coaching career."
The addition of MacDonald makes UMass the only program in Hockey East where both assistant coaches have NCAA Division I head coaching experience. Returning assistant coach Len Quesnelle, former head coach at Princeton, enters his eighth season behind the bench for the Minutemen.
"It is certainly an honor and privilege to have the opportunity for me to work with Coach Cahoon and Len Quesnelle. I have a long history with both coaches and I respect them both a great deal," said MacDonald. "Certainly the opportunity to become a part of the UMass program is very exciting to me and my family. I look forward to helping build upon the success that the previous players have laid with their foundation of hard work."
The Billerica, Mass., native joins UMass after spending 10 seasons leading UMass Lowell - a span which included three 20-win seasons and a 19-win showing in 2009-10. The River Hawks advanced to the Hockey East Tournament semifinals twice (2002, 2009) in his tenure including and appearance in the championship game in 2009 - just the second-ever appearance in the league title game for UMass Lowell.
He finished his stint in Lowell with an overall record of 150-178-44 which included a mark of 93-126-33 in Hockey East play.
In his first season at UML, MacDonald guided the River Hawks to a 22-13-3 record - their best performance since 1995-96 and a fourth-place finish in Hockey East.
In 2004-05, MacDonald guided the River Hawks to a 20-12-4 record, their best since his first year at the helm. UML was ranked as high as seventh in the national polls, had one of the best power-play units in the nation and enjoyed a 14-game unbeaten streak from November 23 to January 28.
The River Hawks continued their development in 2008-09, winning 20 games for the third time under MacDonald, and reached the Hockey East championship game for the second time in program history. The River Hawks finished the 2008-09 season as one of the hottest teams in the country, going 12-5-2 over their last 19 games.
In 2009-10, MacDonald followed with the program's first back-to-back winning seasons since 2002. UMass Lowell finished with a 19-16-4 overall record, tied for third place in the Hockey East conference and were ranked as high as third in the national polls. The season marked the River Hawks' highest finish in Hockey East since 1995-96.
MacDonald came to Lowell after a five-year head coaching stint at Niagara University where he founded the ice hockey program and brought the Purple Eagles to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinal in only four seasons. He compiled an all-time record of 91-58-17 in five seasons with the Purple Eagles (.548), highlighted by a 30-8-4 overall clip and a 15-0-2 finish in College Hockey America in 1999-00.
In the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, Niagara stunned 1998- 99 NCAA finalist New Hampshire (4-1) before falling to eventual national champion North Dakota (4-1). MacDonald was voted runner-up for the Spencer Penrose Award as National Coach of the Year.
MacDonald started the Niagara program in 1996 with all freshmen and guided the Purple Eagles to a 16-9-2 record as a member of the Division III ECAC West. He was voted the ECAC West Co-Coach of the Year by his peers.
Prior to Niagara, MacDonald served as an assistant coach and later recruiting coordinator and associate head coach at Boston University (1990-96) as well as an assistant at Princeton (1987-88) and Dartmouth (1985-87).
While at Boston University, MacDonald helped the Terriers to a 144-42-11 record including five appearances in the NCAA Frozen Four and the 1995 national championship. The Terriers also captured three Hockey East tournament and regular season championships and two Beanpot crowns.
During the past 17 years, MacDonald has recruited and coached many players who have moved on to careers in the NHL. He played a key role in the development of players such as Adrian Aucoin, Rich Brennan, Greg Gardner, Mike Grier, Scott Lachance, Tom Poti and former River Hawk All-American goalie Dwayne Roloson. MacDonald has also coached NHL all-stars Tony Amonte, Keith Tkachuk, and 1998-99 NHL Rookie of the Year Chris Drury, who helped Colorado to the 2001 Stanley Cup title.
A 1985 graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, MacDonald was an All-American defenseman in his senior season. He led the Tigers to the NCAA Division II championship in 1983 and 1985. He helped RIT defeat UMass Lowell, 5-1, in the 1983 Tournament semifinal at Tully Forum. During his career, MacDonald set former RIT records for career assists (106) and points (119) by a defenseman. He was inducted into the RIT Hall of Fame in 1991.
MacDonald served on the American Hockey Coaches Association Board of Governors and was honored by Business First for his career achievements and community involvement as part of its 2000 "40 Under Forty" program.
An avid runner, MacDonald has competed in six Boston Marathons, recording his best time of 3:08:00 in 1992.
MacDonald holds dual citizenship with Canada as his parents hail from Nova Scotia. He and his wife, Carol, are the parents of four children - sons Cameron, Joseph, and Jacob, and daughter Carly.
Assistant Coaching Record Year Team 1986-87 Dartmouth 1987-88 Princeton 1989-90 UMass Lowell 1989-90 UMass Lowell 1991-96 Boston University