Coaching shuffle leaves Davis to lead MHS hockey

Coaching changes are always a big part of high school hockey.

However, Kurt Mithoefer didn’t expect that he would be changing addresses. Mithoefer, who was not brought back by the Merrimack High School administration to coach the Tomahawks for the 2014-15 season, moved on to accept the head coaching position for the new co-op team, Hollis Brookline/Derryfield.

Replacing Mithoefer at Merrimack is former Londonderry assistant Matt Davis, who teaches at the school. There has never been an official explanation of Mithoefer’s forced Tomahawk departure and he would not comment except to wish the Tomahawks the best and thanked them for a good recommendation for the HB/Derryfield job.

“I had a deep connection with that team,” said Mithoefer of his Merrimack squad, which he coached for three seasons as the head man and one as an assistant, reaching the Division II finals twice during that span and the tournament all four years. “Hopefully I can take the success we had at Merrimack and bring it over.

“It was a set of unfortunate circumstances (at Merrimack) but out of it came a great opportunity.”

Mithoefer will be in charge of resurrecting a successful program at Hollis Brookline High School that was reduced to a junior varsity team last winter due to dwindling participation numbers. It also suffered a horrific loss when player Cam Ricard died in an auto accident on the same day that officials were pondering whether to cancel the program.

To ensure the numbers issue wouldn’t happen for the upcoming school year, the Cavaliers joined with the Derryfield School, which had no ice hockey program. The co-op team should have more than enough players to field a varsity squad for this winter.

Mithoefer said the team will have its own nickname and a mix of the two schools’ colors, and will compete in Division II. The Cavaliers had been competing in Division III. The makeup of the roster may be slightly more tilted to Hollis Brookline.

“There’s a good group of talent from what I’ve been told,” Mithoefer said. “I think knowing Division II, I can get it up to a contending level.

“I think it’s a unique situation with two different schools. I think there’s going to be a lot of really good kids. All you need is a few good kids, and you can grow from that.”

Mithoefer’s familiarity with Division II, along with his enthusiastic demeanor, were the main reasons he was hired, Hollis Brookline AD Rhon Rupp said. A hiring committee consisted of officials and parents from both Hollis Brookline and Derryfield. Derryfield athletic director Leonard McCaigue is also a Brookline resident.

“With Kurt, we loved the fact he was a Division II coach,” Rupp said. “His familiarity with the teams we’re going to play was a huge bonus. We liked his energy, his enthusiasm, and when he left the room, we all said, ‘This is the guy.’”

Rupp said the joint venture is going well, feeling there will be perhaps as many as 11 or 12 players from Hollis Brookline and seven or eight from Derryfield.

“We’re not doing this like it’s Hollis Brookline, and, oh yeah, Derryfield will give us a couple of kids,” he said.

Mithoefer, whose mother spearheaded the effort to start high school hockey in Merrimack several years ago, already knows the date when his new team faces the Tomahawks: Feb. 14. Yes, Valentine’s Day.

As for Davis, who could not be reached, Tomahawks athletic director Eric Sabean is thrilled to have him.

“He brings a wealth of experience both as a p;layer and as a coach,” Sabean said, “and understands the landscape of high school hockey in New Hampshire.”

Davis played his college hockey at both Buffalo (N.Y.) State and also Worcester State.