Dakota Gendreau wouldn’t say he’s ahead of schedule, as far as his coaching career goes. Still, having graduated from Thomas College last spring, the 22-year old Gendreau is about to begin his first season as head coach of the Lawrence/Skowhegan boys ice hockey team. When the Bandits open the regular season on Saturday night against Bangor at Kents Hill School’s Bonnefond Ice Arena, Gendreau will be one of the youngest head coaches in the state, regardless of sport.

“It’s been pretty close to what I expected,” Gendreau, a Waterville native, said. “The dedication of these kids, having to show up at 5 a.m. practices, shows they’re really dedicated to hockey and want to win.”

Gendreau was hired just days before the start of preseason practices. His age wasn’t a liability during the interview process, said David Packard, the athletic director at Lawrence.

“(Gendreau) certainly was young, but he had a great passion for hockey,” Packard said. “He just really impressed the interview committee with how he wanted the kids to act, and his knowledge for the game.”

Gendreau got the coaching itch when, early in his college career, he worked a soccer clinic with Waterville boys soccer coach Kerry Serdjenian.

“As studying sports management continued, coaching kind of stood out to me,” Gendreau said. He took a coaching class taught by Thomas baseball coach Greg King.

“That showed me I was started on the right path,” he said.

As a student at Thomas, Gendreau was a goalie on the club ice hockey team. Last year, Gendreau’s senior season, he was a backup goalie. While not on the ice, Gendreau found ways to help the team, almost acting as a player-coach.

“He really had an understanding of the game. We used him to do stats and do some scouting for us,” Thomas club hockey coach Jeff Ross said. “He was willing to learn.”

Ross recalled a preseason clinic held by the Terriers hockey team. Gendreau was a driving force in making sure the clinic ran smoothly.

“I’d be running in from work, and he’d have everything prepped and ready to go,” Ross said. “I think he’ll do a great job coaching Lawrence/Skowhegan.”

Gendreau said with the Bandits, he’s stressing sportsmanship and character as much as hockey skill development.

“I want to give them those traits. I want to train in (hockey) skills, but character, that stuff is what will help them in life,” Gendreau said.

At his first practice, Gendreau told the Bandits the past doesn’t matter. Everything with the team would be earned from that point forward.

“They understand, this is how it’s going to be,” Gendreau said of his team. “I want to see hustle and hard work. They get it. They say, ‘I can talk to him. He’s willing to help me.'”

Gendreau inherited a team that went 4-13-1 last season. Gendreau hopes to coach the Bandits to the playoffs while he pursues a Master’s degree in Business Administration at Thomas. He wants his team to win, but he wants it to win the right way, too.

“We can be a contender for the sportsmanship award, and a contender for a playoff spot,” Gendreau said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM