If you watched Jim Montgomery captain the 1992-93 University of Maine hockey team to an amazing 42-1-2 record and the school’s first NCAA championship, it should come as no surprise to you that he went into coaching.
He was a charismatic leader who knew how to motivate his teammates.
He was all about winning and doing whatever it took to win.
His first foray into head coaching this past season saw him lead the expansion Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints to the Western Division title in the United States Hockey League and then capture the Clark Cup by winning three best-of-five post-season playoff series.
Dubuque went 9-2 in the postseason.
And the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs was goalie Matt Morris, who verbally committed to attend the University of Maine beginning in the 2012-2013 season. He was 9-2 with a 1.53 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage.
Morris was tutored by former Maine assistant Grant Standbrook, who was hired by Montgomery to be a goalie consultant.
“It was a fantastic year,” said Morris. “I can’t say enough good things about coach Montgomery. He not only made me a better player, he made me a better teammate. He pays attention to detail and insists on a team-first attitude which pulled us together.”
“He did an exceptional job as a head coach let alone a first -year coach,” said defenseman Luke Curadi, who was recruited by Montgomery when Montgomery was an assistant at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “He was demanding but he got results. He pushed all of us to be the best players we could be. Winning the Cup showed that.”
Montgomery said, “I was demanding of them but they bought in to what we were doing and they were fun to coach.
“Things couldn’t have gone better. The owner allowed me to hire a real good staff and, together, we found players we wanted. They were good hockey players with great character and they came from good families. A lot of the players were overlooked by other coaches. A lot of them exceeded expectations.”
He placed a high priority on filling his roster with intelligent players.
“You have to have smart players to be able to execute and we did. Our big thing was we executed with (consistent) effort all year long,” said Montgomery. “They played with their heads and their hearts. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The 41-year-old Montgomery has won championships in college, the American Hockey League (Philadelphia Phantoms) and now in the USHL and he said “they all feel the same. They all feel special. We all worked together toward a common goal.”
Montgomery said Morris had an exceptional postseason.
“He didn’t let in one bad goal in the playoffs. To do that over 11 games at that high a level is mind-boggling. He made key saves when he had to all the time,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery said he stayed true to his convictions.
“I didn’t change things if they weren’t working. I game them time,” said Montgomery.
Standbrook’s contribution wasn’t overlooked.
“He was great. I can’t believe how much he knows,” said Morris. “He came in early in the year when I was struggling and he got me playing better. He came in right before the playoffs and I wasn’t playing that well. But he made me feel comfortable in the net.”
“To say he knows a lot about hockey would be an understatement,” said Curadi.