WHEELING, W.Va. – The Wheeling Nailers, ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are announced that Mark Dennehy has been named the team’s new head coach and director of hockey operations.
Dennehy, 50, makes the jump from college hockey to the professional ranks, after serving as the head coach of Merrimack College for 13 years. When he first took over the role in 2005, the program was coming off its 16th consecutive losing season. In a matter of six years under his guidance, the Warriors were not only having success, but setting school records, as the 2010-11 team earned a school-record 25 wins, while reaching the Hockey East Championship Game for the first time ever, and earning a berth in the NCAA National Tournament for the first time since 1988. Merrimack College followed that up with an 18-12-7 mark, as the school was earning a reputation as a contender in a challenging conference. Dennehy collected 161 wins during his tenure.
“After an extensive search, we are excited to welcome Mark Dennehy to Wheeling as our new head coach,” said Nailers Governor Don Rigby. “Mark is highly qualified for this position, and we are very encouraged by the work he did with the students at Merrimack College for the last 13 years. We are looking forward to great success with him behind the bench.”
The Dorchester, Massachusetts native has been involved in Hockey East for the majority of his career, starting in 1987, when he suited up as a defenseman for the Boston College Eagles. Dennehy attended Boston College for four years, registering 54 points (8g-46a) in 133 games. He went on to play in the British Hockey League, before returning to North America, where he made the transition to become a coach. Dennehy was an assistant coach at Princeton University and UMass-Amherst, before earning the opportunity to be Merrimack College’s head coach.
“I’d like to thank Don Rigby, Brian Komorowski and the entire Wheeling Nailers organization, as well as Bill Guerin and the Pittsburgh Penguins organization for this incredibly exciting opportunity,” Dennehy said. “Everything I’ve heard about Wheeling and the Nailers organization from agents, players and opposing coaches has been positive, and after visiting Wheeling and touring the facilities, I can see why. I’ve heard the support is outstanding as well. It’s a storied team, and I can’t think of a better place to start my professional coaching career.”
Six former Nailers played under Dennehy at Merrimack College – forwards Matt Byrnes, Chris Barton, Ryan Flanigan, Jordan Fox and Matt Johnson, as well as defenseman Adam Ross. Barton, Flanigan and Ross were all members of the 2010-11 team that reached the NCAA National Tournament. Other notable players he coached include goaltenders Joe Cannata and Collin Delia. Cannata recently backstopped the Colorado Eagles to the Kelly Cup Finals, while Delia made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks this past season. Dennehy becomes the third NCAA Division I Coach to be hired by a professional team this summer, joining Jim Montgomery and David Quinn, who both went to the NHL.
“We’re very excited to land a veteran coach of Mark’s caliber to our organization,” said Pittsburgh Penguins Assistant General Manager Bill Guerin. Mark is very well-regarded within the hockey community. He did a superb job rebuilding the program at Merrimack College. I’ve known Mark for 30 years. He’ll bring that same work ethic and desire to win and develop quality young talent to the Wheeling Nailers.”
Mark and his wife Heather have three daughters – Kelsey (14), Kielan (13), and Caroline (10).