Courtesy of Megan Erbes, UMass Dartmouth Athletics
DARTMOUTH, Mass. – John Rolli, one of the winningest coaches in NCAA ice hockey history, has announced his retirement as the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth men’s ice hockey coach today. Rolli informed UMass Dartmouth officials, his players, and coaching staff that his retirement is effective July 1, 2016.
“On behalf of our staff, I would like to thank John for his tremendous efforts and the contributions to UMass Dartmouth Athletics throughout his storied career,” UMass Dartmouth Director of Athletics Amanda Van Voorhis said. “John worked to create a highly competitive, first-class Division III ice hockey program over the last three decades. There are thirty-two years of alumni that benefited from his commitment to providing a quality experience on and off the ice. A winning tradition and teaching young men life lessons through sport were just the start. His teams excelled in the classroom year after year and were actively engaged in the community. He poured his heart and soul into the task at hand while advocating tirelessly for the program. John was a great supporter of his coaching peers and our teams, demonstrating a sincere interest in all.”
“I have had the privilege to work with eight supportive athletics directors, tremendous athletics staff, and fabulous players during my tenure at Southeastern Massachusetts University and UMass Dartmouth,” Rolli said. “It was always a pleasure to work with the student-athletes at UMass Dartmouth and my students as an educator for 34 years in the New Bedford school system. I’ve been fortune to work with several great coaches in my career, most notably my mentor, Bruce MacPherson. None of my coaching success could have been possible without the support of my wife, Nancy, and my daughter, Elizabeth, my two best friends in the world.”
In 32 seasons on the Corsairs’ bench, Rolli directed one of the most successful and widely respected ice hockey programs in the nation. Rolli owns a 577-224-43 (.709) career record, boasting the seventh highest winning percentage among all NCAA ice hockey coaches. His 577 victories are the fourth most in NCAA Division III history and 14th on the all-time collegiate coaching list.
Rolli’s tenure as head coach at UMass Dartmouth produced 31 postseason appearances, 27 winning seasons, nine Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) titles, the 2013 Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Championship, and four NCAA Division III tournament berths. The Corsairs won at least 20 games in a single-season 14 times, including a school-record 25 on three separate occasions (1996, 2006, 2007).
From 1985 through 1999, UMass Dartmouth had an unprecedented run of success in the ECAC, posting a combined record of 313-67-10 for a staggering .815 winning percentage. The Corsairs captured seven conference championships and recorded 11 seasons with at least 20 victories during the 14-year stretch. UMass Dartmouth enjoyed its most successful season in terms of winning percentage during the streak when the 1986 team completed the campaign with a 23-1 mark (.958). Rolli also posted his first 25-win season in 1996 as the Corsairs reached the ECAC tournament.
UMass Dartmouth made three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament between 2006 and 2008, representing ECAC Northeast as the conference champion. The Corsairs earned their first win in the national tournament in 2006, defeating Geneseo State 8-2 to advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals. The following year, UMass Dartmouth was edged 3-2 by Middlebury College in the national quarterfinals.
The Corsairs joined the newly founded Massachusetts State Athletic Conference for its inaugural season in 2010. UMass Dartmouth reached the semifinals of the conference tournament in each of its first three seasons before raising the championship trophy in 2013. Sophomore Steve Ginand scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period and senior Ryan Williams made 37 saves to preserve the 2-1 victory over top-seeded Plymouth State. Rolli and his charges booked their fourth trip to the NCAA Division III tournament, where they drew Bowdoin College in the opening round.
A tremendous motivator, Rolli has tutored three American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Division III All-Americans (Eric Frank, 2005; Jon Dryjowicz-Burek, 2006; Mike Owens, 2012), six Eastern College Athletic Conference Players of the Year, and the 2012 Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference Player of the Year in Mike Owens. Nine of his former student-athletes have been enshrined in the UMass Dartmouth Athletics Hall of Fame, in addition to the 1985 and 1998 teams, respectively.
Rolli has earned a great deal of acclaim for his career success. He was named one of 12 finalists for the prestigious Eddie Jeremiah Award/NCAA Division III Coach of the Year Award five times, including earning runner-up honors in 2006. Rolli was selected as the New England Hockey Writers’ Coach of the Year six times, Eastern College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times, and the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2011.
The 1973 graduate of Salem State College retired from the New Bedford school system in 2008 after teaching for 34 years. Prior to joining the Corsairs, Rolli served as the Whalers’ head coach between 1975 and 1984.