This Week in ECAC Hockey: Its season shuttered, Dartmouth, new coach Cashman ‘preparing for next November’

Tanner Palocsik tallied five goals and 24 points in 31 games as a freshman at Dartmouth in 2019-20 (photo: Doug Austin).

Reid Cashman had plenty of success in the professional coaching ranks, but he always knew he wanted to return to coaching college hockey.

Cashman, a former Quinnipiac defenseman who later spent five seasons on Rand Pecknold’s staff, was named the head coach Dartmouth on June 1.

He replaced Bob Gaudet, who retired last spring after 23 seasons with the Big Green.

“My last four years in pro hockey, you’re with your teams and you’re kind of in this little world of winning,” said Cashman, who coached for two seasons with Hershey in the AHL and two seasons with the NHL’s Washington Capitals. “Even in Hershey, where the focus is on development, we were supposed to contend for a Calder Cup. I wanted to get back to college because I wanted to be part of a community. I wanted to get to know the other coaches and know the players. At Quinnipiac, I knew some kids for seven years; three years of recruiting and four years on campus. I missed that.”

But any college job he took would need to be the right situation. Cashman wanted a chance to compete while also staying near his family’s New Hampshire home where he lives with his wife Stefanie and their two young daughters.

“When we as a family were talking about future plans, I wanted to be a head coach. There wasn’t a timeline on it, but I wanted to go somewhere where we could win,” said Cashman.

That situation opened when Gaudet announced his retirement in April. Cashman said he learned of the news on Twitter. But his first season was put on hold in November when the Ivy League announced that it was cancelling winter sports. Cashman has used that time to get the Big Green ready for next season the best that he can.

“This is our preseason,” Cashman said. “We’re preparing for next November. It’s a longer preseason than normal, but no one is going to feel bad for us that we didn’t play hockey and there’s eight teams in our league that are in the same boat.”

Dartmouth had all 27 of its players back on campus in the fall, but that number has dropped to 14 for the spring semester. Cashman said that six of this year’s eight freshmen were able to return to play in juniors, while several upperclassmen joined a group of Ivy League players training in Florida.

On campus, the Big Green have been meeting virtually and in small groups. “We want to make sure our guys know that we are accessible to them,” Cashman said, adding that many of the conversations are about things other than hockey. Being there for his players has been something that Cashman has done throughout his coaching career.

“His ability to challenge and support you as a player and a person is unmatched,” former Quinnipiac and current Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews said after Cashman was hired in June. “His ascent through the coaching ranks is because of his willingness to listen and learn just as much as his ability to coach. Reid has been a major influence throughout my life and believe he will have the opportunity to influence many others throughout his time at Dartmouth.”

Much of the team building this semester has been through impromptu gatherings, such as when the coaching staff was able to get a big enough room on campus for the entire team to gather to watch last year’s leading scorer Drew O’Connor make his NHL debut for Pittsburgh on Jan. 26.

Cashman’s staff includes a pair of former ECAC assistant in Jason Tapp (Union) and Stavros Paskaris (Princeton). Both have instrumental in the Big Green’s recruiting this season, as teams throughout college hockey have had to adapt to long-distance scouting.

“They came with an unbelievable list of players that fit both our academic and athletic profile at Dartmouth,” Cashman said. “More importantly, both guys are extremely well respected and [have a lot of contacts]. All college coaches are relying on people that we trust. You’ve got to trust your contact because we can’t be there in person. We think we have our class filled out for next year.”

When the Big Green finally do take the ice next year, Cashman said the team’s style will be a mix of Quinnipiac and Union’s approach.

“We will be aggressive and be fast,” he said. “We will make teams make four, five, six plays to beat us. We will hold on to and value the puck. Scoring chances will be way more valuable than shots.”

Cashman said he has reached out to both Pecknold and Gaudet as he’s navigated his first season as a head coach. Gaudet talked to some of this year’s seniors after the season was cancelled and while he’s made an effort to step back, Cashman wants the former coach to be more involved.

“He’s not only a legendary coach, but he’s alumnus as well,” Cashman said of Gaudet. “He will continue to be a part of our program. My staff and I are lucky to have him.”

Around the league

— The lone game on the schedule last weekend was supposed to be Long Island at Quinnipiac, but that game was postponed after a member of the Sharks tested positive for COVID-19. The Bobcats enter the final month of the season tied with Clarkson for first place; the teams split the season series 2-2-2.

— O’Connor had an assist in his NHL debut against Boston last week, much to the excitement of his former Dartmouth teammates who gathered to watch him.

“It was awesome to see our players get excited,” Cashman said. “He got to take a faceoff and the room exploded.”

— Former Quinnipiac forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas was announced as a referee for the 2020-21 AHL season. Samuels-Thomas played for two seasons at Bowling Green before transferring to the Bobcats. He was an important part of Quinnipiac’s 2013 national-runner up team and played professionally for seven seasons before transitioning to officiating this year.