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Cole, DelCastillo ready to put stamp on established teams

by James Murphy /

Former NHL forward Danton Cole has been named the new head coach at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
College hockey lost two staples in the coaching ranks this past off season. Alabama-Huntsville head coach Doug Ross retired after 25 years there and 30 years coaching overall, and Tavis MacMillan stepped down after three years as coach of Alaska-Fairbanks and 30 years of being heavily involved with the hockey program in various positions.

But thankfully for both programs, the two coaches that were hired plan on combining the tradition and vision that MacMillan and Ross instilled with their own new philosophies and ideals so that both teams can once again find success. Former Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State assistant coach Doc DelCastillo will take over the reigns at Fairbanks and former NHLer Danton Cole -- who won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1995, and most recently served as an assistant at Bowling Green -- steps behind the bench in Huntsville.

Cole will rely on his vast experience playing and coaching in both college and pro hockey while DelCastillo will bring a strong resume built on recruiting and development.

What it takes to win

In addition to winning the Stanley Cup and 17 years experience at various levels of pro hockey, Cole had huge success at the college level, winning a national championship with Michigan St. in 1986 and playing a school-record 180 games during his four seasons with the Spartans. If there is one thing he learned from his playing experience and those championship runs at Michigan St. and New Jersey, it is that winning championships takes exceptional discipline, dedication and team work.

Since being hired, Cole has already started to build a culture based on these attributes.

“The first thing I wanted to do was to meet the players and try to establish a culture and let them know what I’m about,” Cole said.

“I want them to know what it takes to establish this culture: hard work, showing up day in and day out and truly becoming a team. My job is to get them to buy into this and I’ll rely on my experience playing and coaching in order to do this.”

While the players will ultimately determine the chemistry between themselves, Cole still feels responsible for laying the foundation for them to do so.

“As a coach I can help them develop that chemistry but it’s essentially their choice to decide what they do with that,” Cole said.

“I will guide them and really try to instill what I believe will get us to where we need to be; but they need to learn to do the little things.”

The little things, according to Cole, are the tiresome drills and tedious exercises in practice, as well as being dedicated to a strict fitness program.

“We’ll have them in the weight room and we’ll work hard in practice,” he said. “Hopefully, I can help them realize these are all the things you need to do to succeed at this level.”

With 12 freshmen joining the Chargers this season, Cole is approaching the season with realistic, but optimistic, expectations.

“We’re obviously focused on this season, but with that, it will be good to have a group coming in this season that can learn together,” he pointed out.

“There will be ups and downs and the key is for this group to form chemistry through that and play for each other.”

An eye for Talent

Two seasons ago, the University of Nebraska-Omaha made the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. They were led by 2006 CCHA Player of the Year and Hobey Baker award winner Scott Parse, a player DelCastillo had recruited during his time as an assistant with the Mavericks. Parse was just one of the many players DelCastillo helped bring to Omaha and help put its team on the map as a place to go for potential college hockey players.

Now, as coach of the Alaska Nanooks, he hopes to replicate his recruiting feats from the Mavericks and help an already established program earn their first tournament berth.

“I’ve definitely learned how important the recruiting process is and what it means to building up a program,” said DelCastillo, who also played a similar role as an assistant Coach at St. Cloud State for four seasons.

Alaska-Fairbanks Athletic Director Forrest Karr pointed to DelCastillo’s recruiting skills when hiring him.

“Several D-I athletic directors advised hiring a proven recruiter, as successful recruiters usually end up winning head coaches," Karr said at the press conference announcing DelCastillo as the Nanooks’ new head coach.

Former Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State assistant Doc DelCastillo has taken over the University of Alaska Nanooks.

“Doc's recruiting history speaks for itself. His efforts have helped elevate two D-I programs, both within D-II athletic departments.”

While his recruiting skills will definitely help lure top recruits to Fairbanks, DelCastillo acknowledges that the true test of his skills as a head coach will be developing those recruits.

“It’s always great to be able to go out and scout and bring a in a top recruit but the key is really how you develop those players,” DelCastillo said. “You’ve succeeded only if they stay and succeed with your program. Our biggest job now as coaches is to develop that raw talent they have and make them better players than when they got here.”

In order to achieve that goal, DelCastillo has already been familiarizing himself with the players, his staff and the community.

“I’ve already been getting to know everyone and I can tell you we have a very strong hockey community here,” DelCastillo said. “Tavis MacMillan did a wonderful job during his tenure here and he has definitely made things easier as far as the transition goes. Now it’s up to me to establish a vision for the program, and get the current players to share that vision, as well as the players we try to recruit.”

MacMillan’s influence and a well-balanced team of five seniors, six juniors, six sophomores and seven freshmen, have helped set the foundation for what DelCastillo hopes to build.

“There’s definitely a sense of tradition here, and the core of the team already know what that’s about,” DelCastillo said.

“But we need to also move forward and it’s my job to do that. I’m doing my best to put my stamp on the team with hard work and discipline. I’m excited about this opportunity and look forward to building a winning program.”

Campus Notes – The 2007-08 season really gets going this weekend with a full slate; but there are already two games in the record books. Rensselaer beat Bentley 4-0 and in a surprising upset, St. Lawrence upset then No. 7 Clarkson.

Some key matchups to keep an eye on this weekend:

Defending national champion Michigan St. travels to Grand Forks, N.D., to play the Fighting Sioux in the U.S. Hall of Fame Game. Congratulations to former University of Minnesota standout and NHL veteran Aaron Broten on his induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

All eyes will be on St. Paul, Minn., for the Ice Breaker Series with three Top 10 teams in action. Boston College will face off against Michigan and Minnesota will play Rensselaer.

No. 7 Notre Dame will face a tough test against Wisconsin at the Lefty McFadden tournament in Dayton, Ohio. Top 10

 1. North Dakota
 2. Boston College
 3. Michigan St.
 4. Miami (Ohio) University
 5. New Hampshire
 6. Minnesota
 7. Notre Dame 
 8. Boston University
 9. Michigan
10. Denver
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