WILKES-BARRE — Being a first-year head coach has its own set of obstacles, but mix in building a program from scratch and that’s where you’ll find a trio of area coaches.
Stephen Mallaro and Jen Kindret will be taking over the men’s and women’s ice hockey programs, respectively at King’s, while Stephanie Newmark will lead the way at Wilkes.
All three programs will debut in the 2017-18 season, as members of the Division III level, 10-team United Collegiate Hockey Conference.
But until then, all three coaches have to finish forming their rosters, filling out their non-conference schedules, designing uniforms, rounding out their coaching staffs and much more.
“I could never foresee myself (here), even a couple years ago before I got into coaching,” Kindret said. “I think I’ve had one or two female head coaches in my lifetime. That’s 20-something years of playing and only two female head coaches, so the fact that this opportunity … I’m extremely grateful and I hope to show other girls that they can do this as well, helping grow the game and giving the girls an opportunity to go to college.”
This isn’t the first time Newmark’s had a hand in building a new program.
As an assistant coach at Division III Daniel Webster College, Newmark played a major role in recruiting, along with, manning the defense during games in the Eagles’ 2015-16 inaugural campaign.
Those lessons will go a long way for the Colonels.
“I kind of, in a way, avoided all of the mistakes I made from before and learned from them,” Newmark said. “It definitely has helped me pinpoint what kind of team I should be going for, what I should be focusing on, what I can leave for later. It’s helped a ton.”
With their different backgrounds, Mallaro, Kindret and Newmark all bring unique sets of skills and visions to their respective programs.
Playing at Division III powerhouse SUNY Oswego, Mallaro was a starter on two Frozen Four teams.
“I know what it takes to get there and what we need to do,” he said. “I think that’s going to help out in the long run, but I think also it’s going to help me with a new program through the adversity, like the mental toughness of things. You kind of evaluate to kind of get you through the process.”
Kindret has coaching and playing experience at the Division I level, and wants to bring that Division I-type atmosphere to the Monarchs. The 27-year-old played at Robert Morris University, where she was a four-year letter-winner, and spent two years as a graduate assistant at Lindenwood University.
“I think I’m going to take things from Division III and Division I,” said Kindret, who hails from Winnipeg. “I think I want my program to have Division I mentality in everything they do, where they’re doing their absolute best in school and the community. Where D1 maybe is more just focusing on athletics, I want them to have a very high standard and giving their absolute best every time they do.”
As native of Australia, Newmark brings international experience to Wilkes. She spent eight years on the Australian National Women’s Ice Hockey team, including a three trips to the IIHF Wold Championships.
With her father being from the United States and spending time in Canada before moving to the land down under , many of his friends in Australia were fellow North Americans. A friend invited Newmark and her father to try hockey at a “development session” and the rest was history.
“That kind of atmosphere is a lot different than high school careers because when you’re at that level everything is important — nutrition, training, even when you get to the tournament, that kind of focus on how to prepare mentally for a game, physically for a game,” Newmark said of her international experience. “That all definitely ties into how to bring all that into creating a successful program here at Wilkes.”
While it has been more difficult than others, each coach is making sure to tap the well dry in northeastern Pennsylvania during the recruiting season.
Mallaro, a Syracuse native, is starting in Pennsylvania and working his way out.
“I think it would be really cool to have some local kids on the roster just to, not even attract kids to games, but just to keep the interest level up in Pennsylvania because it is starting to grow a little bit more from what I’ve seen,” said Mallaro, a Syracuse native. “The first thing I’m looking for and underlining in my notes is kids from Pennsylvania, and those are first-and-foremost, probably the No. 1 recruits on my list right now.”
Wilkes men a year away
The Colonels’ men’s program was also supposed to debut this coming fall, but after its top candidate, Michael Young, decided to stay at Westfield State University, the Colonels put the program on hold for a year. With the decision coming in November that Young would stay at the Massachusetts state school, Wilkes athletic director Addy Malatesta didn’t want to rush the program in fear that it would only set it back.
So, the men’s program will debut for the 2018-19 season after Malatesta and her staff completes a nationwide search for their head coach, which is expected to begin next March.
“With any search, timing is everything,” Malatesta said. “Seasonally with coaches and the expectation is coaches already have developed their loyalty — we’re so close to the season — to their teams that it’s a different story than when it’s at the end of the cycle, and it’s at the end of the season and they’re seeking new positions and choose not to return. Many of the coaches wouldn’t want to abandon their teams at that late date, and that’s why we rendered the decision that we did.”