Sunday, July 29, 2018

Former UNH Players Applaud Hiring of Assistant Coach Jeff Giuliano

Jeff Giuliano
New UNH Assistant Coach

On July 10th, UNH men's hockey head coach Mike Souza introduced his new assistant coach Jeff Giuliano to the college hockey world:
"I couldn't be happier to bring Jeff Giuliano to our program. Jeff brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the game. He was a player at multiple levels from the ECHL all the way up to the NHL. His network from his time spent as a professional player will lend itself to a lot of opportunities recruiting. Everyone says that they have never met someone who works as hard as him. That's already proven true just being on the job a couple days."

"He'll have instant credibility with all of our players as soon as he walks into the locker room. He's a guy our players are going to look up to. He is a New Hampshire guy and embodies blue collar spirit in a professional manner. I'm excited to have him as part of our staff."
UNH Head Coach Mike Souza
Given that this is Giuliano's first college coaching job, many UNH fans may not be familiar with his background or qualifications. As Coach Souza said, the 39-year-old Jeff Giuliano is a New Hampshire guy who grew up in Nashua, played for and recently coached the Manchester Monarchs, and was inducted into the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016. Giuliano is obviously pleased to coach for New Hampshire's flagship university:
"Over my 13-year pro career, I played in a lot of different places. To be able to come back to my home state and do what I love to do and give back to the community - I'm just very fortunate. I'm super excited to be able to get started and join this UNH community." UNH Assistant Coach Jeff Giuliano
So what does Jeff Giuliano bring to the table and what kind of a college coach will he be? The first section of this article details his many accomplishments as a player and coach. The second section includes my interviews with three former UNH players - Connor Hardowa, Justin Agosta, and Austin Block - who also played for Coach Giuliano with the Manchester Monarchs. They shared their thoughts on him as a coach and person and how he'll do as a coach and recruiter for UNH.

Jeff Giuliano - Career Highlights

Youth & Prep School Hockey
~ Born June 20, 1979 in Nashua, New Hampshire
~ At age 12, as a member of the Gate City Wings (Nashua Youth Hockey), Giuliano competed in the elimination round of the Boston Bruins Mini One-on-One Tournament at the old Boston Garden.
~ As the senior captain at the St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, Giuliano won the U.S. Hockey Report's (USHR) 1998 New England Prep Player of the Year Award.

NCAA Hockey
~ Played in all 166 games during 4 seasons with Boston College and scored 113 points (40 goals, 73 assists).
~ Giuliano, a left-shot, left winger, was the fifth leading scorer (35 points) on the 2000-01 BC squad that won the National Championship.
~ During the 1999 and 2000 seasons, played total of 8 games against Mike Souza and UNH. Wildcats held 3-2-1 record in regular season games, but BC downed UNH in 1999 Hockey East Championship game and 2000 HE Semifinal.
~ Captained the 2001-02 Eagles and scored 35 points in 38 games.

North American Professional Hockey
~ Although Giuliano was not drafted by a NHL team, he played 101 games over two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.
~ Scored a total of 3 goals and 10 assists with LA and was voted the Kings' "Unsung Hero" in the 2007-08 season.
~ October 11, 2002: Tallied 5 assists in first professional game with Reading Royals, the LA Kings' ECHL affiliate (at the time, Manchester Monarchs were AHL affiliate).
~ 2002-03 Season: Called up to AHL's Manchester Monarchs, tallied 4 goals, 11 assists in 47 regular season games and 1 goal in 3 AHL Playoff games.
~ Over 6 seasons playing for the Monarchs, compiled 30 goals, 58 assists in 273 regular season games and 7 goals, 4 assists in 29 playoff games.
~ 2006-07 Season: As Monarchs' Alternate Captain, lead team to AHL Eastern Conference Finals.
~ Summer 2015: Monarchs' fans voted him onto the "All-Time Favorite Monarchs" list.

International Professional Hockey
~ 2008-09 Season: Was one of 34 NHL players to join the newly-formed Kontinental Hockey League based primarily in Russia. Scored a goal and 4 assists in 46 games with Dynamo Minsk (Belarus).
~ 2009-2015: Played 6 seasons with the Iserlohn Roosters in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL)/German Hockey League. Was their Alternate Captain in his final season.
~ Tallied 42 goals, 69 assists in 245 regular season games for Iserlohn and 2 goals, 3 assists in 11 playoff games.
~ In late 2014, ended his playing career due to concussion problems.

Coaching Career
~ According to USHR, Giuliano was a finalist for the Boston College Assistant Coach position in May, 2013 after Mike Cavanaugh left for UConn. Head Coach Jerry York reportedly chose UNH alum Mike Ayers because he wanted to hire a goalie.
~ In the summer of 2015, the AHL Monarchs moved to Ontario, California in order to be closer to the LA Kings. The Ontario Reign, the Kings' ECHL affiliate, moved to Manchester. Guiliano was hired as the new Manchester Monarchs' Assistant Coach.
~ Giuliano served as assistant to head coach Richard Seeley, a former teammate with the AHL Monarchs, for the last three seasons.
~ Seeley and Giuliano guided the Monarchs to the 2016, '17, and '18 ECHL Playoffs.

Former UNH Players' Perspective

Although Jeff Giuliano has never coached college hockey, there are several dozen collegians who played for him during his three years as the Manchester Monarchs' Assistant Coach. When the Monarchs were relaunched as the LA Kings ECHL affiliate in the 2015-16 season, Richard Seeley was hired as head coach and he hired Giuliano as his only assistant coach. It was the first coaching job for both.

Seeley's professional career followed a trajectory similar to Giuliano's with some notable exceptions. Unlike Giuliano, he was a defenseman who played Canadian major junior hockey in British Columbia, was drafted by the Kings in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, but did not play a single game in the NHL. Seeley played six seasons in the AHL including four with the Monarchs. He and Giuliano were Monarch teammates for three seasons. Seeley also played for a KHL team in Croatia, a DEL team in Duisberg, Germany, two teams in Austria, and finally, for the Belfast Giants. His playing career ended in 2010 due to a knee injury.

Three former UNH standouts played 40 or more games for the Monarchs' coaching team of Seeley and Giuliano. Former UNH Captain Connor Hardowa played defense in 78 games for the Monarchs in the 2016-17 season, fellow defenseman Justin Agosta played a total of 85 games over the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, and forward Austin Block played 40 regular season games in the inaugural, 2015-16 season.

All three played for the last UNH team to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The 2012-13 Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight but missed out on a trip to the Frozen Four when they lost to UMass-Lowell. It was the last game that Hardowa and Block wore the UNH uniform. Agosta also played for UNH in the 2013-14 season. Over the last two weeks, I interviewed each of them, via email. I asked them to share their thoughts on Jeff Giuliano as a coach and person. In addition, I solicited their opinion on how he'll do coaching UNH players and recruiting prospects, in his first job in college hockey.

Connor Hardowa
UNH 2010-13
Connor Hardowa
In four seasons as a UNH Wildcat, Connor Hardowa scored 11 goals and 32 assists in 143 games and averaged 37 blocked shots over his final three seasons. As the senior captain of the 2012-13 squad, Hardowa played in every UNH game and assisted on the game-winning goal against Denver in the opening round of the NCAA Tourney.

While playing for Monarchs' Assistant Coach Jeff Giuliano in the 2016-17 season, Hardowa scored 3 goals and 16 assists in 60 regular season games. In the Monarchs' run to the ECHL semifinals, he tallied 3 playoff assists. In three ECHL seasons, Hardowa posted 14 goals and 48 assists. He played in 7 AHL games.

Last season, Connor Hardowa played for the Rødovre Mighty Bulls in the top Danish Professional League. He was the leading scorer among the Mighty Bulls' defensemen with 8 goals and 19 assists. He plans to play a couple more years in Europe and get into coaching in the United States when his playing days are over.

Here are Connor Hardowa's thoughts and observations on Coach Giuliano during their time together with the Manchester Monarchs:
"Jeff Giuliano was an awesome coach in Manchester and an integral part of our team, as well as my own, success. He brings a ton of experience from his years on and off the ice and is an extremely hard worker. His commitment to constantly developing the game is impressive and he pushes you to do the same no matter what stage you may be at in your hockey career."

"Coach Giuliano handled the defense and penalty kill during my time in Manchester. As a defenseman, I learned a lot from him and would credit him with our impressive numbers on the PK. He knows defense is a big part of the game and can use individual strengths to help the team win."

"Coach Giuliano brought a positive attitude to the rink everyday and formed a great relationships with his players from day one and that continued long after. Off the ice he is a great guy, and NH local who cares about his players on a personal level. I’ve seen his dedication to the sport and the NH community the last 2 years helping him at various hockey clinics he runs in the Manchester area for players of all ages."
On Giuliano's future as a college hockey coach:
"As for his new role at UNH, I think the Wildcats are in a great spot with the addition of 'Giuls' to the coaching staff. I believe he gained important game knowledge and coaching experience during his time in Manchester and will be able to use those years of experience at UNH as they continue to strengthen the program. He definitely has the skills to help Coach Souza get UNH back to the NCAA tournament and knows what it takes to win a championship at the D-1 level.'

"I think Coach Giuliano will have no problem recruiting some of the top players to come play at the Whitt. He has developed relationships within the world of hockey from Juniors to Pros to help make UNH the dominant college hockey program."
Justin Agosta
UNH 2011-14
Justin Agosta
During his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons at UNH, Justin Agosta played in every game except one. Overall, he scored 9 goals and 36 assists in 116 UNH games. Like Hardowa, Justin assisted on the game-winning goal against Denver in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Agosta had a breakout senior season scoring 6 goals and 20 assists, the 5th most on the team, and he blocked 67 shots.

Agosta played in two seasons for Jeff Giuliano and the Manchester Monarchs. In the 2016-17 season, he scored 7 goals and 18 assists in 40 regular season games and was named a starter in the ECHL All-Star Game. He tallied 3 goals and 15 assists in 45 games the following season. In all, Agosta scored 19 goals and 55 assists in three ECHL seasons and 1 assist in 11 AHL games. Justin has retired from professional hockey and is currently in the student housing business at Quinnipiac University.

Justin Agosta has high praise for Jeff Giuliano as a coach and player:
"I think it’s an awesome hire. He was the D coach the past couple years and I learned a lot from him. He was learning from Rich Seely, the head coach, who was a defensemen for a long time. The best part about him by far is his relationships with the players. He’s an awesome guy to be around. He has a really unique ability to make you feel like a close friend but also respect him as a coach."

"UNH is very fortunate to have him and I don’t think there is a better hire to both coach the defense and more importantly recruit and relate to players."
Austin Block
UNH 2010-13
Austin Block
One of the key reasons the 2012-13 UNH team was ranked #1 in the nation in December, qualified for the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the Elite Eight was Austin Block. The forward's goal production jumped from 5 as a junior to 15 as a senior. Block lead the 2012-13 Wildcats in power play goals (6) and was the team's 5th leading scorer (15G, 8A). Over his four-year UNH career, Block scored 25 goals and 25 assists.

Block was an original member of the ECHL Manchester Monarchs in their inaugural season. He tallied 3 goals and 9 assists in 40 Monarchs' games before his trade to the Orlando Solar Bears on February 12, 2016. Block has played for the Monarchs, Bakersfield Condors, Orlando, and the Cincinnati Cyclones over 4 ECHL seasons and has posted 19 goals and 43 assists in 130 games. During his first two pro seasons, Austin played in Finland, Sweden, and Slovakia.

Last season, Block played in the first two games of the year with the Cincinnati Cyclones. He was subsequently placed on injured reserve and did not play for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Regarding his future, Austin said:
"Last season was challenging due to injury but I’ve been repaired and am feeling great and look forward to next season. I'm still undecided on where I’ll be playing next year...My ability to keep playing is a testament to the culture and hard work that the UNH Hockey organization instills in its players. Hoping I can potentially coach at the college level with the Wildcats someday when my playing career comes to an end."
Austin Block, like his former teammates Connor Hardowa and Justin Agosta, is very optimistic about Jeff Giuliano's coaching future with UNH:
"I couldn’t be more proud and excited for Jeff to be a part of my alma mater. He will be a great asset to be hockey program, athletic organization, and University as a whole. He’s one of the most hard working and genuine coaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing for. I’m sure he will be an instant success in Durham and I look forward to tracking his progress in bringing a National Championship to Wildcat country."


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