The University of Rhode Island women’s ice hockey team decided against renewing the contract of head coach Beth McCann at the conclusion of the spring semester, ending her 15-year era at the school.
URI club sports coordinator Chris Daigle said that the team met to do their yearly coaches evaluations and wanted to take the program in a different direction for the 2014-15 season. Daigle said the players had reasons for severing ties with McCann, but he could not disclose them.
“Our main goal is still to win a national championship,” Rhode Island senior Cassondra Catlow said.Â “I think we are still in an excellent position to do so going into this season. While some strong players graduated, I have been told that there is a large and talented freshman class that is excited to contribute.Â Our team has always gotten along very well on and off the ice, I think that is something that sets us apart from other teams and something we will continue going into this season.”
McCann, who could not be reached for comment, founded the women’s hockey team at Rhode Island and had been the only head coach since its inception in 1999. She was compiled a 304-128-26 record while guiding the Rams to nine Eastern Collegiate Women’s Hockey League (ECWHL) titles in the regional division’s 11 years of existence. McCann was named American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2008.
The former URI coach did not remain on the market for long as Salve Regina University reached an agreement with McCann on July 10 for her to take the helm of their women’s ice hockey team. Salve Regina has notched double-digit victories every season dating back to 2006-07, but has not reached the third round of their East Coast Athletic Conference East Tournament since 2008-09.
The Rams filled the void with former women’s ice hockey captain Ashley Pagliarini, 29, who previously served as head coach for the high school co-op Cranston Thunderbirds. Pagliarini took the Thunderbirds, who were previously weak skaters and absent from the playoffs, to the semifinals in each of her four seasons with the team.
“As far as the Cranston team, the focus was on player development and knowing the game and that carries over into URI,” Pagliarini said. “[URI] may be one of the best teams in the nation but I still feel like there’s a long way to go; being deep as a team and having four solid lines are going to be imperative to reaching our goal and winning a national championship.”
Pagliarini, who has 25 years of playing and coaching experience under her belt, played on defense and center during her five seasons with the Rams. She appeared in the ACHA Final Four and captured the ECWHL title in each of her years with URI.
The team’s new coach inherits a roster that remains largely unchanged from last season, which saw the Rams reach the Final Four of the ACHA Division-I National Tournament. Rhode Island lost only five seniors off their roster, most notably Lauren Lanoie and team captain Lauren Hillberg. Senior goaltender Kayla DiLorenzo, who recorded a .950 save percentage and 1.27 goals-against average last season, decided to return for a fifth year. Catlow, the 2013 Zoe Harris Player of the Year, and Alisha DiFilippo, seventh in the ACHA with 44 points in 2013-14, will also be back in blue for their senior seasons.
“I’m very excited to be back at URI in a different role as head coach and want to thank the university for the opportunity to give back to the women’s ice hockey program and URI as a whole,” Pagliarini said. “The team has a history and has been very successful, so I want to build on that and work towards winning the program’s first national championship.”