Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Huntsville Goes with Kleinendorst

The University of Alabama-Huntsville hockey program, still seeking a conference home after competing the last two seasons as an NCAA Division I independent, has turned to the professional ranks for its next bench boss.

UAH announced last week that it had hired Kurt Kleinendorst, who spent the last two seasons coaching Binghamton (AHL), as its new head coach. He replaces Chris Luongo, a former Michigan State and NHL player who guided the Chargers for the past two years.

"It was something I had been kind of thinking about and now everything has worked out," said Kleinendorst recently at al.com.

A native of Grand Rapids, Minn., Kleinendorst, 51, played four years at Providence College (1979-1983) for current New Jersey Devils President/GM Lou Lamoriello, and tallied 89 goals and 103 assists for 192 points in 123 collegiate games while earning All-America accolades. Drafted by the New York Rangers (77th overall ) in 1980, Kleinendorst played six years of minor-league hockey before turning to the coaching ranks with Raleigh (ECHL) in 1991.

He was part of the Devils' system for nine years, including a stint as head coach of the AHL's Lowell Devils (2006-09), and has also coached in Europe and with the U.S National Team Development Program in his career. He was also an assistant coach in New Jersey during the 2001-02 NHL campaign..

His predecessor, Luongo, inherited  a tough job at UAH when he succeeded fellow Michigan State grad Danton Cole in 2010, after the Chargers had made their second-ever NCAA Division I Tournament appearance. UAH managed only six wins over the past two seasons, with the threat of being dropped as a varsity sport coming dangerously close to reality last year.

It's not known why UAH decided to let Luongo go, who is a class act, and he's wished well; but maybe the hiring of Kleinendorst signals that the university is making a committment to have the "Hockey Capital of the South" stick around a while.

His old college coach believes so.

"There is no question in my mind that Kurt will be a decided asset to the University of Alabama-Huntsville hockey team both on and off the ice, and help UAH in their pursuit of a major Division I hockey conference affiliation," said Lamoriello at the UAH athletic web site.

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