ORONO, Maine — When Richard Reichenbach was playing high school hockey near Syracuse, New York, there was a player a year older from the same area that he looked up to.
His name was Todd Jackson and he went on to captain the University of Maine’s hockey team. Reichenbach followed Jackson’s career as well and became a University of Maine fan.
So Reichenbach was elated when he was named the head women’s hockey coach at Maine on Friday.
Reichenbach’s wife, Sara, who served as co-coach with him last year, will serve as an assistant coach for the upcoming season. She is expecting their first child, a daughter, on Sept. 4.
“This is a dream come true. I’m excited. It’s great going to work every day at the Alfond Arena,” said Reichenbach, who recently completed his fourth season with the Black Bears.
He signed a one-year deal and will make $50,000, he said.
The Black Bears finished fifth in Hockey East last season with a 5-14-3 record and 7-20-5 overall mark.
After an 0-12-4 start, Maine went 7-8-1 over its final 16 games, including a season-ending 3-2 triple-overtime loss to Vermont in their Hockey East quarterfinal in Burlington, Vermont.
The Reichenbachs were named as interim co-coaches when Maria Lewis resigned as the coach on Oct. 31 after violating NCAA rules pertaining to countable athletic-related activities. There were excess practice times and workouts supervised by a coach when they were supposed to be captain’s practices without a coach.
“It was obviously an interesting position to be in,” said the 32-year-old Reichenbach. “But Sara and I just went to work every day with a positive attitude and we worked hard.”
He said one of the keys to their strong second-half improvement was the fact they approached it as if it was “our program” and moved forward with it.
“And we’re going to continue doing more of the same — reinforcing a culture of hard work and positive attitudes,” said Reichenbach.
Maine athletic director Karlton Creech said he asked university officials if he could extend the Reichenbachs contracts rather than open up a national search and his request was granted.
“They did such a great job taking over in a difficult situation,” said Creech. “I wanted them to remain as our coaches. We owed it to our student-athletes so see things through. With everything the team went through last year, I wanted to establish some consistency and continuity within the program.”
Creech also said he talked to several people and found out the Reichenbachs were considered “really good people and you can’t undervalue that in an organization. I felt it was the best thing to do for the program.”
Maine will return five of its top seven scorers, seven defensemen and all three goalies and Reichenbach added that they have a good class of incoming freshmen who are already on campus taking summer classes and getting acclimated to the school.
He said their team did a lot positive things this past season.
“They played as a team and learned how to believe in themselves and in one another. And we’ll build off that playoff game [at Vermont],” said Reichenbach, who came to Maine from Cortland State, where he was responsible for recruiting and organizing team travel, practices and video breakdown. He also worked primarily with the Cortland State defense.
Reichenbach, a native of Baldwinsville, New York, is a 2006 graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. He played hockey and lacrosse for the Continentals for four years and while playing hockey at Hamilton, he was coached by Phil Grady. Reichenbach captained the team his senior season.
After graduation, Reichenbach played a year of professional hockey with the Richmond Renegades of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Reichenbach worked as a hockey specialist and Bluestreak Sports Training in Stamford, Connecticut, where he trained numerous elite athletes who played in the NHL, Olympics, Division I and III hockey.
Reichenbach recently completed his master’s degree in sports management from Cortland State.
His wife will be in her fifth year with the program. It is her second stint at Maine. Her two stints have sandwiched a three-year stretch at Dartmouth College (N.H.).
Reichenbach served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator the previous three years before serving as co-coach last season.