News sports reporter
Many coaches over the years have had a hand in helping talented Western New York youth hockey players make a name for themselves.
Mike Mondoux is part of that legacy and will remain a part of that even though his days as coach of the Buffalo Regals/Jr. Sabres 18-under team are numbered.
The 35-year-old Mondoux will step down as the coach of the Elite Buffalo Midget Development Program’s lead team after eight seasons. He is leaving the program he has been a part of since 2004 to spend more time with his family — specifically his two young daughters ages 2 and 1.
What Mondoux helped the Elite Buffalo Midget Program accomplish can be measured in numbers and can also be measured by how other organizations approach things.
Mondoux’s biggest impact: He helped guide the program from half-season to a full-season outfit in which its players had regular opportunities to play in front of NHL, junior and colleges scouts by virtue of joining the premier league in the country (Tier I Elite League).
“Even though Mike’s walking away, down the road we’ll be able to look back at what we built here and what we’ve accomplished and really be proud of it,” said Regals/Jr. Sabres General Manager Anthony Tomasula.
“We were a split-season team that probably played 35 games. Our total team budget was maybe $40,000,” Tomasula said. “Now our program has two teams that both play 75-game schedules and our budget is probably closer to $400,000. In the meantime, we’ve helped over 100 kids move on (to juniors or college hockey) and won a dozen state titles between 16-U and 18-U.”
Here’s a by-the-numbers look at Mondoux’s impact as he prepares to lead the Buffalo Regals/Jr. Sabres into this weekend’s New York State Amateur Hockey Championship at Northtown Center in Amherst.
• 274 – His career victories total entering Friday’s state playoff game against Suffolk PAL at 11:30 a.m.
• 100 – The number of players he has coached, who have moved on to play at either the junior or collegiate level.
• 37 – The number of players he coached, who have gone on to play Division I college hockey.
• 16 – The number of state championships won by the program since its formation in 1997.
• 9 – The number of state titles Mondoux has been a part of.
• 7 – The number of state championships captured by the program with Mondoux as head coach.
• 3 – Number of players (Dylan Blujus, Tim Kennedy, Chris Mueller) who have either been drafted or played in the NHL during Mondoux’s time as an assistant or head coach with the 18-under program. (Note: The Buffalo Elite Midget Development Program, including its 16-under team, has had 11 players either drafted or play in the NHL.)
“With the amount of kids that have moved on from the program and the number of kids I stay in contact with, it’s something I look back at and am kind of proud of,” said the traditionally low-keyed Mondoux of his impact on the program.
Mondoux relentlessly shopped the talents of his players to junior and college scouts. Among the top names he’s coached who have moved on to bigger and better things include Blujus of Buffalo, who went from Buffalo Regals to the Ontario Hockey League’s Brampton/North Bay Battalion and wound up being drafted two years ago by the Tampa Bay Lightning; and Eden’s Alex Iafallo, who took his scoring talents from the Regals to the United States Hockey League (the same league Sabres rookie forward Zemgus Girgensons called home) to Minnesota-Duluth, where the freshman is currently the Bulldogs’ leading scorer.
“He’s been a huge part of the growth of our program,” Tomasula said of Mondoux. “What most people don’t realize is aside from the day-to-day coaching is the countless hours guys like Mike put in promoting the kids, talking to colleges and junior scouts about them. I think one of the reasons we’re so successful is the kids move on from the program all the time.”
Mondoux said his favorite memory came in 2007 when the team won the state title in his first season as head coach. Nick Melligan scored the game-winner in double overtime off a face-off play Mondoux designed, and the players executed to perfection.
“I’ll miss it definitely, but I’ll be around,” said Mondoux.
In regard to his current team’s chances at adding another state title to the trophy case, Mondoux, who also teaches in the Ken-Ton School District, said: “We put together a solid team. We do a lot of little things right. We’ve won four out of our last six games and things are starting to click right now, so I’m pretty excited going in.”
State of mind
The state Tier I, II and III boys tournaments conclude this weekend at Northtown Center with play in the 16-under and 18-under divisions.
So far, the Buffalo Regals’ 14-under Tier I team is the only boys squad to have won a state title.
Western New York has a three-out-of-five shot in the 18-under Tier I tournament as the Buffalo Saints/Nichols and Amherst look to dethrone defending champion Regals/Jr. Sabres.
At 16-under in Tier I, three of the eight teams in the field are local (Amherst, Buffalo Regals/Jr. Sabres and Hamburg).
Other teams include Bud Bakewell (16-under Tier II), Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles (Tier II 16-under), Clarence (16-under, Tier III), Jamestown (Tier III 16- and 18-under teams) and Batavia (Tier III, 16-under).
Games run at Northtown Center from Friday through Sunday. Champions advance to the USA Hockey Tournament.
The girls Tier I and II state tournament begins Friday and runs through Sunday at Bill Gray’s IcePlex in Rochester. The Buffalo Bisons are well-represented in the event with qualifiers in Tier I 12-, 14-, 16- and 19-under divisions.
In Tier II girls, West Seneca has three participants (12-under, 14-under and 16-under), Buffalo Regals (12- and 14-under) and Cazenovia (16- and 19-under) with two each; and the Buffalo Hornets (19-under), Amherst (14-under) and Hamburg (12-under) one apiece.
All but the 12-under champions will advance to nationals.
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