MacDonald steps down at Massachusetts-Lowell

Blaise MacDonald has stepped down as coach at Massachusetts-Lowell, the school announced on Friday.

MacDonald recently completed his 10th season behind the bench at Lowell, where his team finished 5-25-4, the worst record in the school’s 45-year history of the sport.

In 10 seasons, MacDonald compiled a 150-178-44 record for the River Hawks. He began his tenure with a 22-win season in 2001-02 but never reached that win level again.

The school, in a statement released on Friday, indicated that a national search for the next head coach will begin immediately. has learned from multiple sources that former Edmonton Oilers player and coach Craig MacTavish, who played for Lowell in the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons while the school competed at the Division II level, is one of the candidates that the school is considering. MacTavish won four Stanley Cup titles in his playing career and led the Oilers to the Stanley Cup finals as a coach in 2006, riding the back of former UMass-Lowell goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

According to MacDonald, his decision to step down came after week-long discussions between him and athletic director Dana Skinner.

“Dana and I have been in talks all week.” MacDonald said. “The discussions have been detailed and included everything from budgets to recruiting strategies. Together, we reached the conclusion that the time was right for me and the University to try something different.”

MacDonald’s tenure at Lowell was not without controversy. In the summer of 2007, MacDonald was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested for operating under the influence. After approximately six weeks, MacDonald was reinstated by the university.

At the same time, the Lowell program made some major progress off the ice under MacDonald, culminating with the school purchasing its home rink, the Tsongas Arena, outright and making significant offseason improvements.

On the ice, the River Hawks advanced to the Hockey East final four twice under MacDonald — in 2002 and 2009. The latter appearance resulted in the school’s second-ever appearance in the championship game, where Lowell fell, 1-0, to the eventual national champion, Boston University.

“Blaise MacDonald has made many significant contributions to the University and the hockey program,” Skinner said in a statement. “He has coached effectively and mentored many of our student-athletes, instilling in them the importance of education, civility and community service — qualities that served as the cornerstone of his program. We’re grateful for the leadership he provided during his 10 years as head coach. I consider Blaise a friend, and I wish him every success in the future.”