NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Dennis “Red” Gendron experienced two Frozen Fours at the University of Maine, including 1992-93 when the Black Bears went 42-1-2 and won their first of two NCAA hockey championships. He was an assistant at Maine from 1990-93.
Now the second-year assistant coach at Yale University is hoping to help the Bulldogs win their first-ever NCAA hockey title in their first appearance in the Frozen Four since 1952.
Yale was the last team to make the NCAA Tournament field after Michigan lost to Notre Dame in the CCHA title game. Michigan would have supplanted Yale with a win.
Yale, the fourth seed in the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich., went on to upset Minnesota (3-2 in overtime) and North Dakota (4-1) to earn a Frozen Four semifinal date with UMass Lowell at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11.
Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State will play at 8 p.m. and the title game will be 7 p.m. Saturday.
Gendron said he will tell his Yale players that the “biggest thing will be to manage the distractions. All of a sudden, the media will want a piece of you. You’ll be playing in an NHL building and it will be packed. You will have to be absolutely prepared and absolutely focused on the game.”
Yale was just 13-10-3 but went on to win five in a row to reach the ECAC semifinals where it lost to Union 5-0 before losing to Quinnipiac 3-0 (third-place game).
“We had a tough weekend. We didn’t play well and put ourselves in danger of not making the NCAA Tournament,” said the 55-year-old Gendron, who spent 11 seasons in the New Jersey Devils organization and sharing in three Stanley Cup championships before spending six seasons as an assistant at UMass. “But we got in and somehow conjured up all of the positive energy we needed to beat two perennial national powerhouses.”
“It said something about the mental toughness of our kids. They won a bunch of overtime games including road games at Denver and Colorado College,” said Gendron.
Yale went 5-0-3 in overtime games.
Gendron said Yale head coach Keith Allain has a lot of qualities possessed by late Maine coach Shawn Walsh.
“They set the tone and the agenda for the program. They are similar in the way they communicate. They tell everyone what is expected of them and everyone works in sync and is on the same page,” said Gendron. “Keith is a phenomenal coach. He built this program by creating a highly competitive culture and he had different people help him along.”