MSC amps up hockey program, adds coaches to staff

MSC amps up hockey program, adds coaches to staff

WOONSOCKET – “Winning the offseason” is a term commonly used in pro sports for franchises who make eye-opening acquisitions to improve their teams.

And since the high school hockey season ended in March, it certainly appears that the Mount Saint Charles Academy boys’ program is “winning the offseason” with the key additions the school has made to its staff.

Five months after adding two former MSC and NHL standouts, Bryan Berard and Brian Boucher, and UMass-Boston head coach Peter Belisle to its program, the Woonsocket parochial school tacked on three highly successful coaches who led the South Kent School's Selects Academy program to national prominence.

Matt Plante (pictured), Devin Rask, and Scott Gainey, who teamed up to lead the Western Connecticut school to 10 national tournaments and this past year’s U18 championship, are expected to join the Mount program later next week, with Plante and Rask serving as the school’s co-directors of hockey operations and teaming up with Gainey to become the head coaches for Mount’s boys’ teams starting in the 2019-20 season.

Plante coached South Kent’s U18 team to the national title at the USA Hockey National Championships and the U16 team to a New England championship the previous year. From 2012-2018, his teams were 300-54-37. He was also an assistant coach of the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League.

Rask, meanwhile, led South Kent’s U16 team to three national tournament appearances and four New England district championships. Prior to South Kent, Rask was an assistant coach at Providence College, the University of Connecticut and Wesleyan University. And Gainey, who coached South Kent U15 to a national tournament appearance last winter, also served as a junior hockey league scout, as well as the head coach of Xavier High School in Middletown, Conn.

"The interview committee felt like we had the best possible leaders of a program like this that you could find,” MSC president Alan Tenreiro said on Thursday afternoon. "Even more important than being great hockey coaches, they also want to create a program of integrity and make sure we get the right type of kid that wants to be a part of our community and excel academically. They're looking for quality, top-character student-athletes."

As far as this upcoming season, Tenreiro said that Mount’s legendary coach, Bill Belisle, will be back behind the bench with his son, David Belisle. After this season, Belisle will serve in a “coach emeritus” capacity, and David will also remain in the program in a role yet to be determined by the new co-directors.

"Bill is legendary," added Tenreiro. "He's iconic, and it's important that we honor his legacy with a "coach emeritus" title. Whenever he wants to be on the sidelines or at a practice or game, he's always going to be welcomed. We want him to stay involved with the hockey program as long as he wants to stay with it." .

Also with the program is another one of Bill Belisle's sons, Peter Belisle, who will volunteer to advise students regarding college recruitment and continue to direct summer camps at Adelard Arena. Berard, meanwhile, will begin his role late this fall as the director of player development, and Boucher, who is an NHL studio analyst for NBC Sports, will also serve as a strategic advisor to hockey operations.

The Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame’s 16-member inaugural class, which will include Bill Belisle and Bryan Berard, will be enshrined at a celebration and dinner on Thursday, Sept. 20 at the Twin River Event Center.

Also expected to take place earlier that morning is a press conference at Mount regarding the future of the program. At that time, the school is rumored to announce that, like South Kent, it will field U15, U16, and U18 boys’ teams that will play 50-60 games against other midget programs in the northeast part of the country.

MSC is also expected to continue to skate a varsity team in the R.I. Interscholastic League, but it will not be as competitive as the new midget teams, which the program hopes to fill by attracting some of the best hockey players not only in this state, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, but possibly beyond New England.

Two more topics that should be addressed next month are making Mount a boarding school for the players who will suit up for the midget teams, as well as reconstructing a new Adelard Arena to replace the outdated 54-year-old facility.

Winners of a state-best 44 state championships, the Mounties last won a RIIL title in 2014, and two years ago, they fell to Bishop Hendricken in the state finals. Last winter's team went 8-5-3 and lost to Smithfield in three games in their best-of-three quarterfinal-round series, marking the first time since the 1974-75 season that MSC failed to reach the state semifinals.

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That's the way to stay relevant and move your school forward. Big changes.