The revival of the University of Maine men’s hockey program has taken a little longer than even Coach Red Gendron would have hoped. But after a winter in which the Black Bears took a step forward, Gendron’s immediate future was addressed.

Gendron agreed to a two-year contract extension Thursday that will run through June 30, 2021. Gendron’s annual salary will be $213,282.08, making him the highest-paid coach at the school.

Maine is coming off an 18-16-4 season that ended in the Hockey East quarterfinals. That was the team’s best record under Gendron and a seven-win improvement over the previous season.

“No question, to go from 11 wins to 18 wins, and when we were picked to finish 10th or 11th depending on the poll and then finish tied for fifth, yeah it’s positive,” said Gendron, who was hired in May 2013. “The bottom line is that the results are the outcome of how well you stick to the process and how much the players believe.”

And the belief is that the Black Bears will get better. Maine had just four seniors on its roster and returns nine of its top 10 scorers, five of its top six defensemen and all three goalies. Freshman goalie Jeremy Swayman was named to the Hockey East all-rookie team and sophomore forward Chase Pearson earned honorable-mention status.

In addition, Gendron said he has several “really good forwards, kids who are doing great things in the USHL,” coming in next year.

Gendron has a five-year record of 67-98-21. The prospect of future success was one of the reasons behind his extension.

“The coaching staff’s guidance of our players has allowed them to succeed on the ice and in the classroom,” said interim athletic director Jim Settele in a statement. “With a returning core of solid players and some fantastic recruits, expectations are high for next year and we look forward to Coach Gendron leading the way.”

The players like knowing Gendron will be around a while longer.

“It brings a certain stability to know the coaching staff isn’t changing,” said freshman defenseman Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi, who comes from Pietarsaari, Finland. “You know what to expect for next season.

“(Gendron) is really straightforward in what he wants from the players. I guess it’s good to know what’s expected and makes it easier to perform.”

Gendron said the foundation is in place for more improvement next year.

“I don’t see, statistically, any reason why we shouldn’t expect to be successful next season,” said Gendron, who is Maine’s fifth head coach. “That being said, success won’t happen because everyone is back.”

He said it’s important the Black Bears continue building on their progress.

“I chose this,” he said. “It didn’t go as smoothly or as rapidly as I had drawn it up or would have hoped, but we never deviated from what I thought was important or violated any of the standards that we thought were important.”

Gendron first came to Maine in 1990 as an assistant to Shawn Walsh and was part of the 1993 NCAA championship team. He left Maine after that season and was part of three Stanley Cup championship teams with the New Jersey Devils, where he worked with General Manager Lou Lamoriello.

Gendron had just one year remaining on his contract before agreeing to the latest extension.

“To say it doesn’t weigh on you if you’re going into the last year of a contract, that would be a lie,” said Gendron. “One thing (Lamoriello) said to me that stuck with me was, ‘The important thing is not to worry about keeping your job, but worry about doing your job.’

“So I have tried to stay focused on that pearl of wisdom my entire time here. It has helped me to focus on things you can control: the next practice, the next video session, our preparation for the next game.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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