by Nicklas Grifhorst
Established at Rochester College just four years ago, the men’s hockey team has already carved itself a strong foundation for success mixed with a loyal fan tradition, and much of the success can be credited to Head Coach Scott Cagnet.
The driving force behind the club since day one, Cagnet spent eight years getting the program started and then joining the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which has five divisions—three men’s and two women’s—with over 500 teams from across the nation.
“It was a long process of revisions and going back and saying, ‘How about now?’ ” Cagnet said. After spending the first two years as the team manger, Cagnet took over as the head coach last season, leading the Warriors to a 13-21 record in his first year before making massive strides in year two as the head coach, with RC finishing with a 17-15 record.
“Without everything he did for us, I don't know if there would be RC Hockey,” said senior forward Griffin Holt.
The impact of the hockey program has been felt all around the college, with fans filling up Suburban Ice Macomb during home games.
“Scott has done an outstanding job with the hockey program in my opinion. It is a new and exciting sport and something that not all college campuses have. I think it means a lot, especially to hockey fans,” said Athletic Director Klint Pleasant.
Cagnet also plays a role off the ice as the college’s director of co-curricular engagements. “I try to connect learning opportunities that happen outside of the classroom to actual learning objectives,” he said.
A Love for Hockey
Cagnet grew up in Monroeville, Indiana, where hockey was not an option early on in his life. “Where I grew up, I knew that playing hockey was not something that was probably going to happen for me. I had two working parents and it was expensive and very time consuming,” Cagnet said.
Yet he still fell in love with the sport and knew he could pursue it in other ways. “I really enjoyed learning more about the sport, so I early on thought maybe coaching was something I could do,” Cagnet said. This realization led him to devote time to studying and researching hockey, while at the same time being a part of hockey clinics and earning his USA hockey coaching certificate.
Cagnet graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a degree in mass communication. After graduating, Cagnet spent time in radio, before realizing that he had no interest in the job. He then spent the next few years in corporate sales, before a friend told him about an open position in admissions at Rochester College.
“It didn’t take very long before I fell in love with the area, so it was a transition that I adapted to quickly and enjoyed right away,” Cagnet said.
Creating the Program
After years of hard work to get the hockey program started at RC, the work continues, which includes creating the identity and reputation for the school’s program.
“The schools that we compete against are larger institutions and have name recognition, and so even locally, I find that a lot of players and their families have never heard of Rochester College. Introducing them to the college and to something that they have never heard of can make it challenging,” he said.
Cagnet has been able to cast his recruiting net outside of the state and even outside of the country by bringing in six players that are from outside of Michigan.
“In some cases it’s easier to get people from further away, then it is to get players from here because Detroit is so well known for hockey and it has such a good reputation for offering a high level of hockey. Players from all over the country are really intrigued by the idea of playing hockey in the state of Michigan and playing hockey in Detroit,” Cagnet said.
One of those players is junior forward Joe Swenson, a mass communication major who grew up in Wynnata, Minnesota.
“Coach Cagnet has been here for the team since day one. First time meeting him was when I knew I wanted to play hockey here. He made everything very easy for me to make the decision to go here. His passion for the game is amazing,” Swenson said.
Cagnet doesn’t want his impact on his players to be just on the ice, hoping to help them gain more at RC than just a college hockey experience.
“I hope that after being here at Rochester they can see life and the world through a difference lens,” Cagnet said. He adds that he hopes to help his players identify and develop their spiritual life too.
RC hockey’s season may be over for 2016-17, but for Cagnet, he is once again looking toward the future.
“We would love to build a program that is competing every year for national championships and conference championships,” he said. But his goals for his team go beyond the ice.
“My hope is that we are graduating players that can go on to fulfill whatever career or educational goals that they have for themselves well beyond Rochester. I’ll take more pride in graduating players and seeing them be successful beyond Rochester College,” Cagnet said.
Pleasant recognizes the impact that Cagnet has on his players. “I think Scott strives to be a positive role model in his players lives. He and I have talked one-on-one about building culture and making character building a top priority,” Pleasant said.
At the start of the 2017-2018 season, Cagnet will begin his third year as the head coach of the program that he started. He will continue to build on the success of his program and look to build a winning tradition at RC, but what is most important for Cagnet is to build a culture that creates not just good players, but good students.