Princeton named longtime assistant Len Quesnelle its new men’s ice hockey coach at a news conference Tuesday. He replaces Don Cahoon, who left in early April after nine seasons to become head coach at Mass-Amherst.
Quesnelle, 34, becomes the 14th head coach in the program’s history. The Bramalea, Ontario, native has been with the Princeton program since enrolling as a freshman in 1984. He was a four-year letterwinner as a defenseman for the Tigers, then served time as an assistant under Jim Higgins. He became the top assistant and recruiter when Cahoon was named head coach in 1991, a position he remained in until Tuesday.
“Len has emerged from a very arduous process, his ascendance strengthened by his ability to compete for the job,” said Princeton athletic director Gary Walters. “The fact that Len himself is a graduate of Princeton and played a significant role in shaping the current Princeton hockey program significantly bolstered his candidacy in the judgment of the advisory committee.”
Quesnelle stayed loyal to the program over the years, choosing to continue his coaching education under Cahoon instead of moving to a bigger-name program. He said it was out of respect for Cahoon’s abilities, and his love for Princeton.
“Over the last nine years, some opportunities have come up to go work as an assistant in different programs,” said Quesnelle. “At the same time I understood who I was working with and what we were trying to accomplish. I still had more to learn from Don.
“Princeton gives not only students, but student athletes, the chance to be successful in every endeavor.”
Quesnelle inherits a 100-year old program that enjoyed its best sustained success during Cahoon’s nine-year tenure. The Tigers went 27 years between winning seasons until an 18-win campaign in 1994-95 set a new school record. They would reach 18 wins two more times under Cahoon before topping that with a 20-win season in 1998-99. In 1998, the Tigers won the ECAC championship and went to the NCAA tournament for the first and only time in school history.
Quesnelle said the success was a combination of recruiting better talent, and coaching the same talent better than it had been before.
“Nine years ago, we had to go out and find a higher degree of skill,” Quesnelle said. “But you can’t ignore the fact that you need character and good people. Recruiting is your lifeline. Success is how you go about recruiting. We’ll win here with good people.”
Walters declined to elaborate on the selection process, but according to USCHO sources, Princeton interviewed three candidates over the last two weeks, including Quesnelle, Lake Superior State head coach Scott Borek, and Boston College assistant Scott Paluch.
The process took seven weeks, longer than many anticipated.
“The last seven weeks were a real learning experience,” said Quesnelle. “I was looking back over last 12 years, and specifically the last nine, and how we did it, the type of people that were involved, how we went about our business. It takes a situation like this to really look at it.”
Part of Cahoon’s success lied in his refusal to succumb to the idea that “Princeton can’t win.” Ivy League schools have higher entrance standards and cannot give financial aid, but Quesnelle said he carries Cahoon’s optimism with him.
“I don’t see them as obstacles. They’re challenges,” Quesnelle said. “We’ve embraced those challenges. You need something motivating you. It helps us get better.”
Mike Bois, the Tigers’ second assistant this past season, has continued to work with Quesnelle and will stay on staff in some capacity. The search for another assistant will begin shortly, Quesnelle said.