For the first time since the 1988-89 season, this season someone other than Bill Kangas will lead the College’s men’s ice hockey team. With Kangas taking a sabbatical for the 2017-18 academic year, Mike Monti, who has served as the assistant coach since 2015-16, has taken over as the Ephs’ interim head coach.
The purpose of Kangas’ sabbatical is twofold. His time away from the team has allowed him to travel around the country and observe other top collegiate hockey programs. Kangas said he was excited about the opportunities, citing the valuable 24/7 access to witness top coaching up close. In addition, by following teams throughout the entire season and watching what kind of adjustments they make as the year progresses and different challenges emerge, Kangas seeks to apply that knowledge to the College’s program.
However, his decision was also largely motivated by the fact that his son Ryan is playing his senior hockey season at SUNY Brockport, about five hours from Williamstown. Kangas estimated that he has gotten to see about three of Ryan’s games per season during his collegiate career, mostly before Williams’ season starts and when the late-season NESCAC schedule allows him to watch. While Kangas plans to be “hands-off” during his year away, he will have to make a decision as to where to sit on Jan. 9, when the Ephs visit Ryan’s Golden Eagles for a non-conference game.
An additional and critical piece of the process was deciding who would fill in for Kangas’ year away from the team, but he said Monti was an easy choice for the job. Having just completed the third year of his second turn as an assistant coach – he spent time at the University of Vermont between stints in Williamstown – Monti’s experience and relationships with the team made the decision simple.
“Coach Monti has a great grasp on the balance that goes into being a hockey player at the College,” Kangas said. “While we take hockey very seriously here, our relationships with our players are something that is bigger than the game.”
In addition to his “tireless work ethic,” Kangas cited Monti’s “love for being around the guys in the locker room every day, and the genuine care he has for them as people” as two of the things that he believes make him a great coach.
While Kangas will have plenty of opportunities to learn and grow as a coach during his year away, this season presents a unique opportunity for Monti, who has been given the opportunity to take the reins of an Eph team that has a chance to make a splash in the NESCAC this year. Having returned their three leading goal scorers from last season, the men will look to improve upon their fourth-place finish in the conference.
Monti has attempted to make the transition to interim head coach as smooth as possible.
“What I really wanted to make clear to the guys from early on is that I’m still Coach Monti,” he said. “Our relationships won’t change; I’m still [going to] be the same guy that’s always around, always here for you.”
Despite the change in personnel, both Kangas and Monti cited Monti’s experience with the program, as well as the strength of the senior class, asrereasons why this year has felt like “business as usual.”
“Our six seniors have been great,” Monti said. “I’ve really relied on them to be the voice of this team, to tell me what’s working and what isn’t working as we lead up to the season.”
“I just love being with the boys” is something he constantly reiterates, and that fondness shows in the emphasis he puts on spending time with his players and taking their feedback and turning it into something positive for the team.
With Kangas traveling the country in a quest to improve his coaching knowledge and returning to the team for the 2018-19 season, and Monti taking charge in his absence, there are a lot of changes at the rink, but the team remains united in its goal to win its first NESCAC championship.