Consider what the world was like when Bill O’Neill took over as head coach of the Salem State hockey team in 1981.
There was no such thing as Facebook or Twitter.
There were only 21 NHL teams.
In 1981, O’Neill was three years removed from winning a national championship at Boston University in 1978.
And consider this — it was seven years before O’Neill’s son, Will, was born. Will O’Neill is now a senior captain on the University of Maine hockey team.
O’Neill is two wins away from earning his 500th career win at Salem State — a stretch that began when Ronald Reagan was in his first full year as president of the United States, and when Barack Obama was in college.
In that span, Salem State has reached two NCAA semifinals, earned six NCAA Tournament berths, has won three ECAC East playoff championships, and has won 23 MASCAC championships.
O’Neill’s success to this point is indicative of the state of coaching at the Division III level — it’s a long-term endeavor, and long-term can’t be accomplished without success.
This season, seven of the top 10 winningest coaches in Division III hockey are still coaching:
Norwich’s Mike McShane (603 wins)
Middlebury’s Bill Beaney (563 wins)
Massachusetts-Dartmouth’s John Rolli (542)
Plattsburgh’s Bob Emery (500)
Salem State’s Bill O’Neill (498)
Bowdoin’s Terry Meagher (470)
Fitchburg State’s Dean Fuller (462)
In an age when coaching as a lifetime profession seems like a fleeting endeavor, it’s remarkable to see coaching longevity in college hockey, let alone in a sport.
Going from one milestone to another
Nichols coach Lou Izzi earned his 200th career win Wednesday night with the Bison’s 4-0 win over Suffolk.
Izzi coached at Johnson and Wales from 1998 to 2003, then took over as head coach at Nichols in 2005.
Curry coach Rob Davies is poised to earn his 200th career win; the Colonels host Salve Regina at 7:35 p.m. Thursday. Davies is in his 13th season as head coach of the Colonels, and has spent his entire head coaching career at Curry.
Entering the final three weeks of the regular season, Johnson and Wales’ Jeremiah Ketts and Danny Kaufmann continue to maintain their scoring paces — both lead the nation in scoring, as Ketts has 45 points and Kaufmann 37 — but the Wildcats need to create their own safety net when it comes to earning a playoff position in the ECAC Northeast.
Johnson and Wales is third in the nation on offense (4.71 goals a game) and is fourth in the nation on the power play (36 for 128, 28.1 percent).
Also from the ECAC Northeast, Wentworth’s Mike Domsodi (30 points) and Nichols’ Louie Educate (33 points) entered the week as the nation’s leading freshmen scorers, and Curry’s Ryan Barlock leads all Division III defensemen with 30 points.
Western New England has the No. 4 penalty kill in the country (78 for 88, 88.6 percent), and is 10th in the nation on the power play (23 for 93, 24.7 percent).
From the MASCAC, Worcester State goalie Bryan Kalczynski is 10th in the nation with a .929 save percentage, and Massachusetts-Dartmouth is third in the nation on the power play (25 for 81, 30.9 percent.)
Game to watch
One game to watch this weekend: Plymouth State at Salem State, 2 p.m. Saturday.
First place continues to be up for grabs in the MASCAC. Plymouth State entered the week in first place in the conference, a point ahead of Salem State. While the Panthers are idle until Saturday, Salem State plays Thursday at Massachusetts-Dartmouth, getting a chance to earn points, which are at a premium this time of the year.
Furthermore, there’s something else at stake on Saturday.
Go back to the start of this column. If the stars are aligned properly (and if Salem State wins Thursday’s game against the Corsairs), O’Neill is poised to earn his 500th win on Saturday.