Chris Donovan M'06, the only head coach in the varsity history of the Saint Michael's College women's ice hockey program, enters his 19th season at the helm of the Purple Knights in 2018-19. Donovan heads into his 28th year of coaching overall, with the 2019 calendar year his 20th guiding college women's teams.
The 2017-18 Purple Knights opened the year with back-to-back wins, while their biggest victory of the year was a 1-0 upset of Division I Sacred Heart University on Jan. 12. In the opening round of the New England Women's Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) Tournament, Saint Michael's knotted the game with three minutes to go before falling at Franklin Pierce University, 2-1. The Purple and Gold suffered seven losses by two goals or less, playing 20 of their 27 games in the new NCAA Division I/II NEWHA.
Saint Michael's put together a 3-1 run toward the end of January in 2017-18 that included scoring the final five goals in a 5-2 win over Castleton University and breaking out for a six-goal third period during an 8-2 victory against Nichols College. Between Jan. 20 and Feb. 17, the Purple Knights went 4-5 while averaging 3.1 goals, with two losses coming by 3-2 margins. In all, 10 setbacks during the season were by two goals or fewer.
A 3-2-1 stretch toward the end of the 2015-16 season began with the Purple Knights' school-record-tying third shutout of the year and concluded with the fifth-seeded Purple and Gold's 5-2 upset victory over No. 4 Sacred Heart University, a Division I institution, in the first round of the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Open Tournament. That triumph was the first win-and-advance postseason victory in program annals. Saint Michael's recorded its highest goal (45), assist (62) and point (107) totals in five years, and its best win figure in eight winters.
The Purple Knights counted among their highlights in 2014-15 a 1-1 tie with Division I College of the Holy Cross and a 3-2 victory over eventual Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) East Tournament runner-up Castleton. Donovan's charges set a school record for goals-against average (2.95), matched the second-lowest save percentage in program annals, and recorded their highest win, goal, assist and point totals since 2010-11. The Purple Knights matched their best ECAC East win total since 2007-08. Nine of their setbacks came by two goals or fewer.
During the winter of 2013-14, Saint Michael's yielded two goals or fewer on 10 occasions, while 11 losses came by two goals or less. During the campaign, the Purple and Gold picked up its first win ever over New England College en route to its best ECAC East finish in three years. The season ended with the Purple Knights tying Sacred Heart during the ECAC Open Tournament third-place game.
In 2012-13, Saint Michael's turned in one of its best defensive seasons, yielding three goals or fewer 15 times en route to posting a school record for save percentage (.917) and a then-school-record 3.41 GAA. Capping the success was a momentous 2-1 victory on Feb. 16 over Manhattanville College, which was receiving national votes and had defeated national power Norwich University the night before.
The squad was beset by injuries in 2011-12, eventually losing 11 contests by three goals or fewer, including six by one or less. The Purple Knights advanced to the Saint Michael's Holiday Classic title game, coming within 3-1 of Sacred Heart during a setback. In 2010-11, Donovan helped lead Saint Michael's to the first postseason victory in program history, as the Purple Knights defeated Sacred Heart, 9-2, in the ECAC Open Tournament.
In 2009-10, Donovan's squad won the Saint Michael's Holiday Classic for the first time in program history, as the Purple Knights defeated Colby College and Plymouth State University to claim the title. The victory over the Mules was the Purple and Gold's first ever against a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) institution.
In 2008-09, Donovan's team won six games, including four in the ECAC East, after notching eight victories the prior campaign, as each of the Purple Knights' wins during 2007-08 was in conference. Saint Michael's finished just below .500 in the ECAC East, going 8-10-1 behind the first victories in program history versus the University of Massachusetts at Boston, Norwich University, and the University of Southern Maine.
After playing an abbreviated six-game varsity schedule during 2000-01, their first season of varsity play, the Purple Knights earned their first win against a varsity squad on Jan. 4, 2002, blanking Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 4-0.
In 2005-06, goalie Annice Mason '06 was nominated for the 2006 Hockey Humanitarian Award, presented annually to college hockey's finest citizen, before Emily Loebs '16 was put forth in 2015-16. Another goalie, Marcy Ring '05, was previously nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year. Donovan's rosters have included players hailing from as close as neighboring New England states, Ontario and Quebec, and ranging from as far away as California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. Two of Donovan's players have earned the opportunity to play professionally in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL). Desiree (Biron) Casian '10 signed with the Boston Blades in October 2015 before Erin Dwyer '17 was drafted by the Blades with the 64th pick of the 2017 CWHL Draft.
In the past 17 years, Donovan has recruited players who have earned four all-conference honors, three all-rookie laurels, and 106 academic accolades. His players have been named conference player of the week eight times, rookie of the week nine times and goalie of the week six times.
Donovan has an extensive hockey background, including evaluating for USA Hockey's National Player Development Camp tryout for girls ages 13-18 for the past 13 years, and coaching at a regional player development camp. He was a member of the coaching staff at the Phillips Exeter Academy Hockey Camp during many summers until 2005, and on-ice director of the staff as a member of the Breakaway Hockey Camp for Girls held each summer at Cairns Arena until 2006. In 2005 he was a coach at the Cornell Hockey Camp. Donovan has his USA Hockey Level 4 coaching certification.
He served as an assistant coach for the Saint Michael's men from 1991-92 to 1993-94. Donovan was also previously coaching director for the Vermont Northern Lights women's program.
Donovan played for Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, Mass., and went on to play at Norwich from 1969-70 to 1972-73, serving as captain of the Cadets in his senior year. A 1973 graduate of Norwich, Donovan holds a bachelor's degree in business administration with a minor in secondary education, and earned his master's degree in administration from Saint Michael's in May of 2006. He resides in Hardwick, Vt. As of the summer of 2018, a dozen of Donovan's former Saint Michael's players were currently coaching at the youth, high school or college level.
|2009-10||3-20-2||1-17-1||SMC Holiday Classic Champion|
|2010-11||6-19-2||4-12-2||First Postseason Win in Program History|
|2011-12||3-22-1||2-15-1||SMC Holiday Classic Finalist|
|2013-14||3-19-4||2-12-2||SMC Holiday Classic Champion|
|2015-16||6-19-2||3-13-1||First Postseason Advancement in Program History|