FAIRFIELD, Conn. — One of college hockey’s worst-kept secrets became official today, as Fairfield announced the hiring of Jim Hunt as its new head coach. Hunt becomes the fifth head coach in the history of the program, which began varsity play in the 1974-75 season.
Hunt chosen more than three weeks ago, but not officially named until the previous coach, Mark Dennehy, officially resigned. That announcement of Dennehy’s resignation to become assistant coach at Mass.-Amherst came on Friday. Dennehy’s departure was also known for weeks, but that wasn’t officially announced until UMass completed its state-mandated bureaucratic process.
Hunt arrives at Fairfield after serving as an assistant coach and the assistant director of player personnel for the USA Hockey National Development Program for the last three seasons.
“I am very happy to have a coach of Jim’s caliber oversee our ice hockey program,” said Fairfield athletic director Gene Doris. “My goal to hire a coach who could help develop our program to be competitive in the MAAC Hockey League. Jim has the coaching experience, especially through his work with USA Hockey, to help us reach that goal.”
Hunt’s hockey background includes four years (1996-2000) as the Atlantic District director of player development, where he responsible for the identification, training and development of players in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. During his tenure, sixty players went to Division I schools or Junior-A teams.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to continue what has already been started at Fairfield,” said Hunt. “Our success will be based on our ability to develop a relatively young team, and I look forward to the challenge of bringing Fairfield to the next level.”
Hunt got his coaching start as an assistant at his alma mater, St. Mary’s College (Minn.), in 1985. He put in a stint as the head coach for Paramus Catholic High School (1987-95) in New Jersey and the head coach of the New Jersey Junior Devils from 1992-97, where he led the squad to two league championships and three national championship appearances.
Dennehy led the Stags to a 3-28-3 record this past season, but the record not indicative of the young coach’s success. When arriving at Fairfield, the team coming off a 1-31-0 record in a season that saw the Stags outscored 227-64 by opponents. Though the Stags’ record did not show significant improvement, goal differential did, as Dennehy’s team closed the gap to 183-78, a net improvement of 58 goals.
Fairfield returns 20 letterwinners from last season’s team, including a host of young scorers led by Rae Metz, who earned MAAC All-Rookie honors.