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Capuano headlines ECHL alumni at World Championships

Thursday, May 20th
Capuano headlines ECHL alumni at World Championships

Jack Capuano will take a piece of the ECHL with him to the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships, which begin on Friday in Riga, Latvia.

The former ECHL coach and executive will serve as head coach for the United States in the tournament that runs through June 6. It marks the fourth time that Capuano will represent his country as a coach after previously serving as an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship and at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and serving as the head coach of the 2005 U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the Five Nations Cup in Slovakia.

“Anytime that you get an opportunity to represent your country, it’s a proud moment and something that you can never pass up,” Capuano said. “I take a lot of pride in it and am honored to be able to represent the United States.”

Capuano began his coaching journey as an assistant coach in the league with the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks in 1995-96. After returning to Tallahassee the next season, he departed during the season when he was named head coach of the Knoxville Cherokees. He moved with the Cherokees the next season when they became the Pee Dee Pride, and led the team to an 85-30-15 record over two seasons, and a Brabham Cup title in 1998-99.

He moved into the Pride’s front office in 1999-2000, serving as the club’s Senior Vice President/General Manager through the 2004-05 season, when the team suspended operations. From there, he went to the National Hockey League, where he was an assistant coach with the New York Islanders during the 2005-06 season, before moving on to the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport as an assistant coach in 2006-07 before taking over as head coach in 2007-08. Midway through the 2011-12 season, he returned to the Islanders as head coach, a role he remained in until 2016-17, becoming the second-winningest coach in team history along the way.

Capuano’s previous coaching experience in international tournaments has taught him how to construct a line-up with minimal practice time together.

“I think the biggest thing you have to do is try to simplify things,” he said. “I’ve done a little homework on the guys who play in the NHL and what systems they play on their teams. Some of that might be a little different than what we are going to do, but the last thing I want to do in a short amount of time is try to over think it and complicate things. These are really good hockey players and I want to let them play and showcase their skill.”

The biggest change from anything he has experienced previously is the protocols in place to deal with Covid-19.

“It’s a little bit different now in a lot of ways. It’s been a very unique year with Covid, and when we go, we have to isolate for two days, see how many practice days we can have before the tournament starts. There’s an outline, and it’s subject to change, but it’s definitely a different deal with Covid but I really respect all the players and staff and the sacrifices they are making to come over. Chris Drury and John Vanbiesbrouck have done a great job assembling a team to go over.”

The 2020-21 season was Capuano’s second season as associate coach with the Ottawa Senators. After a slow start to the season, the team had a strong finish to the campaign, going 14-8-4 in their final 26 games, to finish in sixth place of the North Division, just eight points out of a playoff spot.

“I think (owner) Eugene Melnyk and (general manager) Pierre Dorion had a vision,” Capuano said. “They brought in the right head coach in D.J. Smith. We didn’t get off to the start we wanted for different reasons, but there were no preseason games and we had a bunch of new guys and younger players, which is no excuse, but you could see the growth of the team throughout the year and how hard we competed and how structured we played. It was great to be a part of that, and I think with the players we have and the players we have coming, we have a bright future ahead in Ottawa.”

Capuano is joined on the Team USA coaching staff by two other ECHL alums. Assistant coach Adam Nightingale played with Greenville and Charlotte from 2004-08 and goaltending coach Kevin Reiter played for Phoenix in 2006-07.

Two players on the roster also have previous ECHL experience, as goaltender Anthony Stolarz played for Reading in 2017-18 and defenseman Chris Wideman suited up for Elmira in 2012-13.

ECHL referee Andrew Bruggeman, the 2019-20 recipient of the Ryan Birmingham Memorial Award, has been selected as a referee for the tournament.

Other former ECHL players participating in the tournament include:

Belarus – Artem Demkov (Elmira, 2011-14); Stepan Falkovsky (Adirondack, 2016-17; Manchester, 2017-18 and Allen, 2018-20); Geoff Platt (Atlantic City, 2004-05); Mikhail Stefanovich (Reading, 2010-11 and Rapid City, 2015-16) and Danny Taylor (Bakersfield, 2006-07; Wheeling, 2006-07; Texas, 2006-07; Reading, 2007-09; Gwinnett, 2009-10)

Canada – Michael Bunting (Rapid City, 2015-16); Justin Danforth (Reading, 2016-17 and Cincinnati, 2017-18); Adin Hill (Rapid City, 2016-17) and Darcy Kuemper (Ontario, 2011-12 and Orlando, 2012-13)

Czech Republic – David Musil (Bakersfield, 2013-14) and Roman Will (Fort Wayne, 2014-15)

Denmark – Sebastian Dahm (Johnstown, 2008-09 and Alaska, 2009-10)

Finland – Juho Olkinuora (Ontario, 2013-15 and Tulsa, 2015-16)

Germany – Tom Kühnhackl (Wheeling, 2012-14); Mathias Niederberger (Ontario, 2013-14) and Marcel Noebels (Trenton, 2012-13)

Great Britain – Ben Davies (Norfolk, 2016-17); Dallas Ehrhardt (Evansville, 2013-14; Allen, 2014-15; Missouri, 2014-15; Rapid City, 2014-15 and Wheeling, 2015-16); Matthew Myers (Bakersfield, 2009-10 and Johnstown, 2009-10); Mike Hammond (Cincinnati, 2015-16 and Brampton, 2015-16); Brett Perlini (Bakersfield, 2012-13; Greenville, 2013-14; Toledo, 2013-14; Indy, 2014-15; Fort Wayne, 2014-17; Rapid City, 2016-17 and Wichita, 2016-17); Ben Lake (Alaska, 2015-17) and David Phillips (Toledo, 2009-11 and Gwinnett, 2010-11)

Italy – Head coach Greg Ireland (Dayton, 1998-2003); Stefano Giliati (Reading, 2009-10), Thomas Larkin (Evansville, 2013-14); Angelo Miceli (Brampton, 2015-16; Greenville, 2016-17; Norfolk, 2017-18 and Atlanta, 2017-18); Alex Petan (Quad City, 2016-17); Phil Pietroniro (Utah, 2015-17) and Marco Rosa (Long Beach, 2004-06 and Texas, 2006-08)

Kazakhstan – Curtis Valk (Kalamazoo, 2014-16)

Latvia – Rodrigo Abols (Greenville, 2019-20); Martins Dzierkals (Orlando, 2017-18); Ralfs Freibergs (Ontario, 2014-15 and Toledo, 2015-16); Renars Krastenbergs (Wheeling, 2018-20) and Kristians Rubins (Newfoundland, 2018-19)

ROC – Maxim Shalunov (Toledo, 2013-14) and Evgeny Timkin (Florida, 2010-11)

Slovakia – Martin Gernát (Bakersfield, 2013-14) and Kristian Pospisil (Orlando, 2017-18)

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