Damian DiGiulian returns to Saint Michael's for his sixth season as the men's ice hockey head coach in 2017-18. DiGiulian, who has also coached in the USA Hockey development system, is just the third head coach since the program was elevated to varsity status for the 1982-83 season.
The 2016-17 Purple Knights rebounded from a slow start to surprise a pair of nationally-ranked Division III teams mid-season before tying for the Northeast-10 Conference regular-season co-championship and finishing as the tournament runner-up for the third time in four seasons. A 2-7 start gave way to a 5-1-2 stretch that included a 4-2 win over No. 12 Babson College - the Purple and Gold's first victory against a nationally-ranked foe in nearly 13 years - and a 5-5 tie the following day versus No. 8 University of Massachusetts at Boston. As the No. 2 seed in the NE10 Championship, Saint Michael's dispatched third-seeded Stonehill College, 4-1, in a semifinal before falling to No. 4 Assumption College, 3-2, in overtime during the title game.
The Purple Knights set a school record with a .903 save percentage while registering a 3.52 GAA, just short of the two-year-old mark (3.50). Their 892 saves were the most in eight seasons.
Two of DiGiulian's student-athletes were honored as winners of the 2017 Hockey Humanitarian Award, with Danny Divis '17 and Justin McKenzie '17 earning the recognition for their work as creators of mental health awareness campaign Hope Happens Here. They were the first Purple Knights to earn the accolade, and the initial co-winners of the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which lauds college ice hockey's finest citizens. Divis and McKenzie were featured on ESPN, U.S. College Hockey Online's (USCHO) live radio show and in the pages of NCAA Champion Magazine before being scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitches at Fenway Park on Aug. 5, 2017.
During a season in which nine rookies joined the program, the winter of 2015-16 saw the Purple Knights lose their first five games before splitting the next four, with both losses by one goal, including 4-3 against 6th-ranked Amherst College. Saint Michael's rebounded after returning from a winter trip to Europe to go 4-3 in its first seven second-semester games. The Purple Knights tied for fourth in the final NE-10 standings but missed a postseason berth by virtue of a tiebreaker.
For the second straight season, the Purple Knights advanced to the NE-10 Championship title game during the winter of 2014-15, ultimately falling to Saint Anselm College, 6-3. Saint Michael's shared the NE-10 regular-season crown and nabbed the No. 1 seed in the tournament thanks to a 3-0-2 regular season that included tying Stonehill to end the Skyhawks' 14-game regular-season conference winning streak. With nine wins, the Purple Knights had their highest overall victories total since 2010-11 while setting school records for goals-against average (3.50) and shutouts (3).
The Purple Knights surged to a strong finish in 2013-14, going 6-4-2 down the stretch, with the ties coming on consecutive February days against nationally-ranked Division III foes in No. 3 Babson and No. 11 UMass Boston. As the fourth seed in the NE-10 Tournament, Saint Michael's snapped top-seeded Stonehill's 10-game winning streak by taking a 2-1 semifinal match-up before falling 4-1 to third-seeded Southern New Hampshire University, 4-1, in the final, trailing by just one goal into the final minute. As a team, the Purple Knights posted the fifth-best goals-against average (3.85) in school history, while their .886 save percentage tied for fifth.
During the winter of 2012-13, DiGiulian's first as a college head coach, the Purple Knights had one of the stingiest defenses in program history, posting a 3.73 GAA, then the second-best showing in school annals, and the best since 1997-98. Saint Michael's allowed 30.7 shots on goal per game, its best performance since 1996-97. The Purple Knights also logged only 188 penalty minutes, averaging 7.5 per contest, the lowest totals among all NCAA Division I, II and III men's ice hockey teams. Among the squad's standout games were a 5-4 win in overtime on Feb. 9 against Castleton State College, which was receiving a national vote, and a 2-1 victory against three-time defending NE-10 Tournament champion Saint Anselm on Feb. 1. Saint Michael's also put together a handful of strong showings against national powers, including standing tied with No. 2 Norwich University until 13 minutes remained in a 5-2 loss on Jan. 18, and falling just 4-3 against eventual NCAA Tournament quarterfinalist Babson on Jan. 11.
During the three seasons immediately prior to his arrival at Saint Michael's, DiGiulian was the head coach and director of hockey for the Rice Memorial High School prep program, which he created in 2009. The South Burlington-based squad went 36-12-3 in 2010-11, its second year of existence, while winning the New England Fall Prep Hockey League (NEFPHL) title.
DiGiulian was an assistant coach at Division III Middlebury College during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, as the Panthers went a combined 37-14-3 while reaching the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament championship game both winters. Middlebury was 26-9-3 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) East as a league counterpart to Saint Michael's.
Between the 1997-98 and 2005-06 seasons, DiGiulian was an assistant coach at the Division I University of Vermont, which he helped qualify for the postseason seven times, including in 2005-06 during the program's first year in Hockey East. The Catamounts advanced in ECAC Division I Championship play three times during his tenure, including after posting a 13-6-3 league mark in 2004-05. During his nine winters with Vermont, DiGiulian was heavily involved in coordinating and supervising alumni and community service endeavors in the Burlington area. He served on the Hobey Baker Memorial Award selection committee and on the America Hockey Coaches Association (ACHA) awards committee while coaching the Catamounts.
At Vermont, DiGiulian was instrumental in the recruitment of Torrey Mitchell and Patrick Sharp, both of whom have played at the highest professional level in the National Hockey League (NHL). Mitchell has played for two NHL teams, while Sharp won the 2010, 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 2014.
In 2016, DiGiulian was an assistant coach as the Lithuanian national team won the Division II Group A bronze medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) U18 World Championship in Romania. Since 1997, DiGiulian has been a coach, evaluator and presenter in the USA Hockey development system. He was selected to coach the 1999, 2000 and 2001 Rocky Mountain District Select-16 team while, in 2000, he assisted a gold-medal-winning U17 select team during a tournament in the Czech Republic. DiGiulian has helped organize evaluation camps in Vermont for USA Hockey while evaluating and choosing players aged 14 to 17 for USA Hockey Select Festivals.
DiGiulian coached in the Junior A ranks prior to gaining college experience, most recently as the associate head coach and assistant general manager with the Butte (Montana) Fightin' Irish of the American Frontier Hockey League (AFHL) in 1996-97, when the Fightin' Irish advanced to the league finals. In 1995-96, he was an assistant for the AFHL's Vail (Colo.) Avalanche, who owned the league's best record, at 40-6-3.
DiGiulian previously played professionally in 1993-94 with the Louisville Icehawks of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League (CHL), as well as coaching and training with the Vancouver-based Furokawa Hockey Club of Japan in 1994-95.
A 1993 graduate of Hamilton (N.Y.) College, DiGiulian earned a degree in history while also playing for the Continentals. Beyond his coaching and playing careers, DiGiulian has been an on-air ice hockey analyst, appearing on radio station WVMT for University of Vermont broadcasts since 2006 and on ESPNU for select Division I contests since 2007.
|2013-14||7-17-3||3-12-3||2-3||NE-10 Tournament Finalist|
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|2016-17||9-16-2||4-13-1||4-1||NE10 Tournament Finalist|