Mark Dennehy Promoted; Dineen New Utica Coach

In a series of moves by the Devils organization, AHL coach Mark Dennehy was promoted within the club and Kevin Dineen was named new Utica Comets head coach.

Dennehy was promoted to Chief Scout, Amateur Scouting. He had served as the team’s American Hockey League head coach in Binghamton since August 1, 2018.

According to the press release put out by Devils PR, Dennehy “will work with hockey operations executives, the amateur scouting department and the entire staff to enhance the club’s scouting and development capabilities.”

New Jersey General Manager Tom Fitzgerald was quoted in the press release as saying: “Mark has a specific skillset in his hockey career that has uniquely prepared him for this newly created role within our organization. He has experience coaching young players on the international level, recruited players to play in a collegiate program that he built, and worked with young players who have achieved their NHL dreams. His ability to soak up information, ask questions, and constantly challenge the group to be better, represent what we envision this role to be. We are confident in his ability to work to continue bringing our scouting and evaluation process to the next level. Mark has already immersed himself in this new career challenge over the past few months and is extremely excited to help draft future Devils.”

Dennehy coached the Binghamton club for three years, from 2018-19 to 2020-21. His team’s best season was the middle one, 2019-20, when the team was 34-24-4 over 62 games. The press release says that they were in fourth place in the AHL’s North Division – in a playoff position – when the COVID-19 pause occurred. They were in the middle of a seven game winning streak, having gone 23-9 from December 14, 2021 to the stoppage.

Dennehy helped develop such talent as Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Jesper Boqvist and Mikhail Maltsev, all of whom played in the NHL fairly regularly or regularly last season.

The press release notes that Nolan Foote, Kevin Bahl, Tyce Thompson and Marian Studenic all made appearances in the NHL as well last year.

Dennehy previously worked as head coach of Merrimack College of Hockey East. The press release says that in his time there, he notched 161 wins over his career. He also led the Warriors to a school-bast 25 wins in 2010-11. That season, he took the team “to the Hockey East Final and NCAA Regionals. For his efforts, Dennehy won the Bob Kullen Coach of the Year Award as the conference’s top coach.”

His experience prior to Merrimack also comes in the NCAA, with time as an assistant with UMass-Amherst from 1995 to 1996 and 2000 to 2005, Princeton University from 1997 t0 1999 and was head coach of Fairfield from 1996 to 1997.

Dennehy was a defenseman for Boston College from 1987 to 1991 and then played professionally for one year “with Ayr of the British Hockey League.”

He was an assistant coach with “the 2019 Team USA Under-18 Men’s Select Team at the 2019 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup” and “head coach of Team USA’s Under-17 Men’s Select Team that placed third in the 2018 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament and was assistant coach fo the 2017 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament team that secured gold.”

With Dennehy moving to the front office for the New Jersey Devils, there was a vacancy that needed to be filled in Utica.

Enter Kevin Dineen.

The Devils announced today that they had hired Dineen to coach the Utica Comets. Hia staff will include Associate Coach Sergei Brylin, Assistant Coach Ryan Parent, Goaltending Coach Brian Eklund and Video Coach Adam Purner.

Devils Assistant GM and Utica GM Dan MacKinnon said: “Tom Fitzgerald, Robert Esche and I are pleased to bring Kevin and his family into the New Jersey Devils organization, and we all look forward to what he will bring to Utica. Kevin’s vast coaching experience in both an NHL and AHL bench, winning a Stanley Cup as an Assistant Coach and his international experience with young players covers everything you want in a coach to lead our AHL team. The organization is excited by the players who will hit the ice in Utica this season and their future possibilities to help the big club in New Jersey. Kevin, and the entire returning staff, have all the attributes we look for in individuals to help our players develop successfully.”

Dineen spent the last two years as head coach of the San Diego Gulls (AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks). Over those two seasons, he led the Gulls to a 56-36-9 record. They lost in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs in 2021.

The press release on the subject from Devils PR notes that prior to his time in the Ducks’ organization, he as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks, from 2014 to 2019, winning a Stanley Cup in his time there.

His resume includes time as Assistant General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2003 to 2005. He was head coach of the Portland Pirates from 2005 to 2008 when they were the Ducks’ AHL affiliate and 2008 to 2011 when they were the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres.

In the AHL, he took the Pirates to the AHL Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2008 and won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL Coach of the Year in 2005.

At the NHL level, he served as head coach of the Florida Panthers from 2011 to 2013, collecting a 56-62-28 record. The press release notes that Florida lost in 2012 to the Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with New Jersey going on to win the Eastern Conference that year.

Dineen was head coach of Team Canada’s women’s team at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He led them to their fourth straight gold medal in Sochi, Russia that year.

In addition, he was Canada’s men’s team head coach at the 2014 IIHF World Junior U-18 Championship – where they won bronze.

Dineen played 19 NHL seasons, being drafted by the Hartford Whalers 56th overall in 1982. He played for the Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus and the Ottawa Senators – scoring 355 goals and 760 assists, totaling 760 points and 2,229 penalty minutes. In 59 Stanley Cup Playoff games, he racked up 23 goals and 18 assists for 41 points and 127 penalty minutes.

Another hire by Utica is Damion Parmelee as Head Equipment Manager. Parmelee joins the Devils-affiliated Comets from his time with the Vancouver Canucks-affiliated Comets (technically a different franchise that moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia).

Chris Murphy continues as Assistant Equipment Manager and Jon Williams relocates from Binghamton to continue as Head Athletic Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach. Steve Nightingale will come in as Strength and Conditioning Coach.

Devils Swept in Four Games with Rangers

The Devils played four against their arch rivals and lost four to their arch rivals. They finished their four straight against the New York Rangers by losing 5-3. The two teams are done with their season series.

Some AHL news to get to first. According to an article on WNBF’s website (a news radio station in Binghamton, New York), the B-Devils may not be long for Binghamton.

The article, written by Bob Joseph, says that WBNG and WICZ in the city are reporting that the parent Devils are putting “demands that were unreasonable” on the B-Devils’ management.

Furthermore, WBNG is reporting that the current Utica Comets’ president has filed a trademark for the name “Utica Devils.” Utica was previously home to the Devils’ AHL affiliate in the late-80s to the early-90s.

The Utica Comets are the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate currently and Vancouver is the only western-based NHL team not to have their AHL affiliate in the west, which adds a little more credibility to this report.

Now to yesterday’s game. The biggest news coming out of the game was the NHL debut of Nolan Foote. With his father Adam in attendance, Foote had a good debut game. He notched an assist for a point and was a minus-1 in 8:07 of total ice time. He played the left side on the fourth line. He wore number 25.

In warmups, goaltenders Mackenzie Blackwood and Aaron Dell wore masks designed by a healthcare worker at Monmouth Medical Center (an RWJBarnabas Health affiliate) in honor of those who work in the healthcare industry. It was a great nod to those who work in a rough industry.

Speaking of goaltenders, Blackwood went for the Devils, making 21 save on 25 shots for an .840 save percentage. He stopped the Rangers’ lone shorthanded try and let in two of the three power play shots he faced. He was 19-for-21 at even strength. The Rangers went 2-for-5 on the power play.

The Rangers started Alexandar Georgiev and he made 25 saves on 28 total Devils shots for an .893 save percentage. He stopped two Devils shorthanded shots, two power play shots (the Devils were 0-for-1 on the power play) and 21-of-24 at even strength. In a strange situation, Georgiev got hurt and left the ice with 2:19 remaining in the first period, with Igor Shesterkin coming on in relief. He stopped the only two shots he saw (one on the power play) as the Devils finished with 30 shots to the Rangers’ 25.

The game started with a bang as, following a big hit on Andreas Johnsson, Nico Hischier stepped in to protect him. PK Subban then stepped up for HIschier and after some pushing and shoving, order was restored.

The Rangers got on the board first when Chris Kreider scored on the power play at the 6:31 mark. Mika Zibanejad skated in and faked a wrist shot from the far faceoff circle. He passed to Kreider at the side of the net and Kreider tapped the puck in for the early 1-0 lead for New York. Artemi Panarin had the secondary assist.

At 14:03 of the first, Vitali Kravtsov scored his first NHL goal (his first first goal had been denied last week by an offside challenge by the Devils) when Brett Howden passed to him, setting him up for a one-timer. He unloaded and beat Blackwood to make it 2-0 Rangers.

It was déjà vu all over again for the Devils and it was about to get worse.

At the 5:17 mark of the second, Alexis Lafreniere scored to put the Rangers up 3-0. Off the rush, Filip Chytil collected a pass from Kaapo Kakko in his skates and made a nice backhand pass to Lafreniere. Lafreniere also collected the puck in his skates and backhanded the puck by Blackwood to up the Rangers’ lead.

The Devils had hit the bottom but would begin to climb out from here.

But first, Jack Hughes took a tripping call at 14:19 of the second and was not happy. He slammed his stick against the glass twice, entered the penalty box and threw it onto the ice. He received a ten-minute misconduct along with the trip. But the Devils would fight back in the meantime.

At 18:55 of the second, Mikhail Maltsev made it 3-1. Subban blasted a shot from the point and the puck rebounded off of Yegor Sharangovich’s skate to Maltsev, who put it into a wide open side of the net.

Just 1:53 into the third period, Marian Studenic notched his first NHL goal when Maltsev got it to him just inside the Rangers’ blue line. He skated in and snapped a shot by Georgiev to get the Devils within one, 3-2. Johnsson had the secondary assist.

A few minutes later, at the 5:30 mark, the captain tied it. Nick Merkley won a puck battle along the near boards and threw it cross-ice to Foote at the inside edge of the far faceoff circle. Foote saw Hischier right near him in the slot. He passed and Hischier buried it to tie the game up at three. For Foote, his first NHL point in his first NHL game.

But the Rangers’ power play would strike again. At 17:00 into the third, Zibanejad scored when Adam Fox and Ryan Strome worked the puck around the perimeter and inside to Zibanejad in the slot. He took the pass and roofed it over Blackwood to give New York back the lead 4-3. The Devils poked the Rangers’ power play bear and got bitten.

Blackwood was pulled with just over a minute to go in regulation and Strome added an empty net goal from Colin Blackwell and Panarin to ice the game at 5-3. It was an automatic goal was Subban was backchecking and took a hooking penalty with Strome in the clear. No penalty served, but a goal that counted despite Strome missing the net.

So the Devils wrap up their season series with the Rangers not with a bang, but with a whimper.

The Devils outshot the Rangers 30-25, had a better faceoff win percentage at 57-percent, were outhit 16-8 and had 12 giveaways to the Rangers’ three. Both teams finished with 13 blocked shots.

Subban led in ice time with 27:51 while Sharangovich led the forwards with 22:04.

Hischier led in shots on goal with seven, Michael McLeod, Maltsev, Matt Tennyson, Ty Smith, Damon Severson, Jonas Siegenthaler and Subban all led in hits with one apiece. Subban led in blocks with two and five takeaways led that category from Hughes.

Next up, the Devils travel to the Steel City for three straight against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Tomorrow’s game is a 7 PM puck drop and we will have more timely coverage for you here then.

We will also talk about Alexander Holtz signing his Entry Level Contract, which happened today.

Until then, stay safe everyone!