University of Maine senior forward Jack Quinlivan heads toward the net during a December practice in Orono. Photo provided by the University of Maine athletics

University of Maine Athletic Director Ken Ralph said Tuesday he expects to name a new men’s hockey coach by the end of the first week of May.

Dennis “Red” Gendron died after a medical emergency at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono on April 9. He was 63.

Speaking to media via Zoom Tuesday afternoon, Ralph said he’s made 159 phone calls in the search for Gendron’s replacement, including ones to NHL general managers and head coaches, major junior coaches, agents, and family advisors. Interviews will begin later this week, Ralph said.

“We didn’t want to sit back and wait for resumes to come rolling in. We decided to be aggressive and go after candidates we really liked,” Ralph said.

Ralph declined to name any of the candidates, but said a wide net was cast in the search. Ralph added that the first call he made was to UMaine alum Jim Montgomery. Now an assistant coach with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, Montgomery coached the University of Denver in 2017, and served as head coach of the Dallas Stars for a season and a half. The captain of Maine’s first national championship-winning team in 1993, Montgomery is the Black Bears all-time leading scorer. Montgomery and his family are happy in St. Louis and was not interested in the job, Ralph said.

“Jim and I have a long history together. We’ve been friends for a long time. I hired him to be an assistant coach when I was the athletic director at RPI and we’ve remained close ever since,” Ralph said.

Lisbon native Greg Moore, who played for Maine from the 2002-03 season thru 2005-06, also declined to be interviewed. Moore is the head coach of the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and is happy on the professional coaching track.

Montgomery will serve on the selection committee, along with fellow alumni Garth Snow and Bruce Major. Snow was a goalie on the 1993 championship team and went on to a long playing career before spending time as general manager of the New York Islanders. Major played for the Black Bears in the late 1980s and in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques. Joining the former players on the committee are Ralph, who serves as chair, Deputy Director of Athletics Brian Faison, and Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Samantha Hegmann.

University of Maine senior captain forward Jack Quinlivan skates during a Dec. 11 game against New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire. Photo provided by University of Maine athletics

The interview process will be entirely remote via Zoom, Ralph said. Montgomery, Snow, and Major will interview candidates separately from the rest of the committee, focusing on hockey knowledge and ability to teach the game, as well as long term plans and recruiting reach.

“They’re not looking for a one-hit wonder. They’re looking for sustained excellence, and I think we all want that,” Ralph said.

Interviews with Ralph, Faison, and Hegmann will focus on UMaine’s campus culture, academics, NCAA compliance issues, community service, and engagement with faculty. The two groups will then meet to merge their results and find the best fit for the Black Bears, Ralph said.

Interim head coach Ben Guite, who was an assistant coach under Gendron and played on Maine’s 1999 national champion, will be considered for the job, Ralph said. Guite, who was named interim head coach, recently presented Ralph with his detailed plan for the future of the program.

“Ben’s doing an outstanding job in the interim role. I’ve been really impressed with how he’s really taken control, and he’s kind of forging his own identity. He’s not running Red’s version of the team. He’s running Ben’s version of the team, which is something we were kind of wondering what was going to happen in that. He and (assistant coach) Alfie Michaud have just done a wonderful job keeping the team together, keeping the team engaged, helping the team track through a very difficult time emotionally, but also continuing to press the agenda of how we get better as a program,” Ralph said.

The candidates come from many levels of hockey, not just the college coaching ranks. Ties to the Black Bears will be considered, but are not a disqualifying element for any candidate, Ralph said.

University of Maine forwards Ben Poisson, left, and Jacob Schmidt-Vejstrup look on during a practice at Alfond Arena in Orono last season. Photo provided by the University of Maine athletics

“We didn’t want to limit it into any one particular pool, and quite frankly, we looked everywhere,” Ralph said. “We need to know a little bit about who we are and what we are to understand where we need to go. I think sometimes it’s just too easy to say well, so and so has a tie, so that puts them in the pool. No, you’ve got to find somebody who can move the program forward in the modern age of college hockey. It’s a very dynamic time in Division I right now, and we need somebody who can appreciate that and has shown an aptitude and can make it happen, regardless of whether they have a tie to Maine or not.”

Ralph acknowledged Maine has financial constraints not felt at other schools. Gendron’s salary was just over $213,000, making him the lowest paid coach in Hockey East.

“I think everybody knows, financially we have to run our program on a little tighter budget than a lot of others. It does take the majority of head coaches out of the pool. The reality is there’s enough folks out there that recognize what UMaine is and the hidden value that’s here. I think we’ve sort of gotten a little complacent about what our program is and where it can go. One of the things we’re looking for in this group of candidates is can they recognize the assets that are in place here and how can they capitalize on those?” Ralph said, adding the impending improvements to Alfond Arena should be a selling factor to any coach and potential player recruits.

The Black Bears have not played in the NCAA tournament since 2012. They finished last season’s shortened campaign 3-11-2, falling to the University of New Hampshire in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament.

Recapturing the success the Black Bears enjoyed beginning with coach Shawn Walsh in the mid-1980s and continuing in the early 2000s is possible, Ralph said. He pointed at the participants in the recently completed Frozen Four, where St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth, and Minnesota State primarily play in Division II outside of hockey.

“I still think there’s room in the game of hockey for a school like the University of Maine to be highly successful,” Ralph said. “Don’t tell me we can’t get it done here.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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