Fairfield has never been at the top of the MAAC. When one further notes that the Stags had the combined worst record in the league for its first three seasons of existence, the former statement comes at no surprise.
Enter Jim Hunt. Now into his second year of coaching in southern Connecticut, Hunt is already the coach with the longest tenure since Fairfield joined the MAAC. Both Michael Doneghey and Marc Dennehy lasted only one year in the MAAC, though Doneghey was coach at Fairfield before it joined the league.
Hunt’s take on the team’s lack of success was simple.
“When I came in, I made the assumption that every guy who was in the program was part of the problem,” said Hunt. “So I gave myself a year to figure out which guys I trusted to move forward with.
“I ended up walking out with 18 guys. So now I have 18 guys who are all of the right mentality. I know they’re thinking the same way I am and everyone is on the same page, which is a huge advantage.
“There was a learning curve that we had to deal with last year in terms of establishing what is acceptable and not acceptable. Now we all know.”
To say that Hunt “cleaned house” would be an understatement. The numbers are staggering.
“At the end of training camp we’ll have moved on 19 guys and only one is through graduation, so we’ve made a lot of personnel changes in 12 months,” Hunt said. “That’s probably the biggest impact.”
Now that the right personnel are in place, Hunt knows what has to be worked on next: the power play.
“The most disappointing thing consistently last year was our power play,” said Hunt, a former assistant coach in the USA Hockey program. “It was below average, and with the personnel we have, it should be below average.
“They had a really successful power play when I came in, so I left it alone. There were so many changes that we implemented, so the players came to me and said they were comfortable with [the existing power play].
“Now we’re at the second phase now where we’re trying to tweak some of the finer points and the power play will certainly be one of them. The fact that we’re a little more experienced will add some depth.”
Hunt will return only one goalie from the team he inherited 12 months ago. Sophomore Craig Schnappinger, who played most of the games down the stretch for the Stags will be the lone veteran.
He is joined by three rookie tenders: Scott Wagner from nearby Stratford, Conn., Stephen Baker, from Cohassett, Mass., Andrew Martin of Plano, Texas, and Michael Wolfe., from Milford, Conn. Each netminder will enter training camp on equal ground, but one has to wonder how long a team can carry five netminders.
Offensively, Ryan Tormey is expected to be back to 100 percent health after suffering a concussion last year and missing 12 games. The punch of Tormey, Rae Metz, and Casey Laflamme could be potent enough to make Fairfield a contender.