WHEELING, W.V. – Roughly six weeks after playing their last game and not renewing Jeff Christian‘s contract, the Wheeling Nailers have their guy, one that has a knack for building programs into contenders. This morning, the team introduced Mark Dennehy as the 17th head coach in team history.
The Dorchester, MA native joins the Nailers after 13 years as the head coach at Merrimack College, where he took a team coming off its 16th consecutive losing season and turned them into a perennial contender in the extremely competitive Hockey East Conference. His sixth season with the Warriors was his best. That year, they compiled a 25-10-4 record and won their first-ever Hockey East Championship game, while earning a berth in the NCAA Hockey Championships for the first time since 1988.
Several current and former ECHL players played under Dennehy at Merrimack College including Colorado Eagles goaltender Joe Cannata and goaltender Collin Delia, who made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks this past season.
“It’s exciting to be a part of pro hockey; for the past 24 years I’ve spent coaching at the collegiate level,” Dennehy said during his remarks this morning. Later in his remarks while thanking his wife, Heather, he stated, “I coach for two reasons, number one is I love it, and the one in front of number one is my wife lets me.”
Current Pittsburgh Penguins Assistant General Manager Bill Guerin has known Dennehy since their time as teammates at Boston College and said:
“I had college coaches, junior coaches, other coaches from the ECHL that were no longer in the playoffs or contracts were going to expire, no less than 50. When Mark and I got in touch with each other, his name went right to the top, to be honest with you this was a no-brainer for me.”
“I’ve seen the work he’s done with Merrimack College,” Guerin continued, “His reputation out in the hockey world is impeccable. He brought that program to a whole new level and like Don (Rigby) said ‘The most important thing along with the hockey is the type of person Mark is.'”
When talking about working the Penguins development camp, Dennehy said he would be talking a lot with former Nailers and current Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Head Coach Clark Donatelli about how Donatelli built this team to the success it had in 2016, when the Nailers won the Eastern Conference Championship and played in the Kelly Cup Final.
The 50-year-old was joined at the press conference by his wife Heather. Together, they have three daughters who did not attend today’s announcement.
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