It’s a tough thing to become a head coach. It’s tougher when you’re a first-time head coach. And when you have to start a program from scratch, that’s the difficulty hat trick.
“You could say it’s not ideal, but a lot of things are about perspective and how you approach them,” Eric Sorenson said, as the now former Williams College men’s hockey assistant coach takes over as the head coach for the fledgling program at Division III Rivier University.
“I think part of that comes from what I’ve learned from [Williams head coach Bill] Kangas,” he said. “I think anyone’s that’s played for him, at least in my time at Williams, he has this line ‘There’s always a wrinkle.’ Building a program in a pandemic is quite the wrinkle, but it’s just another challenge.
“I’m excited and I think there are a lot of players out there who are going to be looking for a home. I think what Rivier has to offer student-athletes, in the academic and athletic sides of things, will be very enticing.”
Sorenson will be building a program from scratch at the Nashua, N.H., university. Rivier had only announced the establishment of the men’s hockey program on Oct. 6.
“We are pleased to welcome Eric to Raiders athletics and to work with him to achieve our vision for the men’s ice hockey program,” Rivier director of Athletics Joanne Merrill said in a statement. “I believe his coaching experience and leadership will motivate student-athletes to achieve their full potential as scholars and athletes.”
Sorenson spent two seasons working under Kangas. The Ephs were 14-9-2 in 2018-19 and then were 17-8-1 last year in the 2019-20 season. The regular-season champion Ephs were the top seed in the NESCAC Tournament, beating eighth-seeded Connecticut College before losing in overtime to No. 5 Wesleyan in the semifinals. The Cardinals went on to win the NESCAC Tournament title.
Prior to coming to Williams, the former goalie at Western New England College had spent four seasons at Division III Nazareth College.
“It’s well deserved,” Kangas said of his now former assistant’s new job. “He’s just blossomed as a coach. I had him coming from Nazareth and [head coach] George Roll did a great job with him. A lot of it’s just Eric. Eric’s a pretty motivated kid. He communicates well, he’s very thorough, he’s on point. He’s going to do an amazing job. It’s a great hire for the school. Obviously, starting a new program is, I imagine, nerve wracking. I can’t imagine what they’re going through at their school.
“They hired the right guy.”
Rivier announced back on Oct. 6 of this year that it would add men’s and women’s hockey to its varsity athletics offerings. That gives the New Hampshire university of 1,400 students.
The hockey program will start off by applying for membership n the American Collegiate Hockey Association, and then will transition to full NCAA Division III status for the 2022-23 season.
There are three potential conference landing spots for Rivier — the Commonwealth Coast Conference, MASCAC, or the New England Hockey Conference. MASCAC could be the most likely, since Plymouth (N.H.) State is already in the league as a football and hockey only member.
Sorenson said that it did not take long to come together with Rivier.
“They announced it in early October. I threw my name into the ring, and in a short period of two weeks when I first spoke to people from the school, until the offer,” he said, “It was pretty quick all things considered. It’s an exciting time.”
One thing that should not be anticipated in the 2021-22 season is Rivier playing Williams. Sorenson and Kangas both like the idea, when the Raiders can be fit into a future Eph schedule.
“I will schedule them when Coach Kangas and I have that conversation,” Sorenson said. “We haven’t talked about it yet. I don’t anticipate doing it the first year. Schedules are usually done out a year or two. I know Coach Kangas’ [2021-22] schedule is already done. When the time comes, I’ll certainly let you know, but it’s not something that isn’t happening in year one.”
Sorenson will be at Williams through the end of November, and then begin his work at Rivier begins.
“I can start recruiting on Monday, Nov. 30, that’s my first day. I’m a Williams employee until then,” Sorenson said. “That’s when I’ll hit the ground running. We’ll have about 10 months to get up and running. We anticipate playing next fall. As busy as recruiting will be, it will be just as busy finding games. Next October, we’ll be hitting the ice for practices and then games shortly thereafter.
“It’s going to come fast, I think.”