John LaFontaine Named NAHL Coach of the Year
Thursday, 04.28.2016 / 2:58 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell
Wildcats Head Coach John LaFontaine has been named the North American Hockey League Coach of the Year, the league announced Thursday.
It was difficult to envision a sophomore season living up to the level of success the Wildcats’ Head Coach had in his first year with the team. In 2014-15, LaFontaine took the Wildcats to—at the time—new heights. He set records in wins with 39, and his team led the league in several offensive categories. The Cats were first in the NAHL last season in goals (242) and power play percentage (25%). Furthermore, the team saw 14 players commit to colleges, which also led the league.
While many of those league-wide records may not have been set this season, Coach LaFontaine took the team to even newer heights in several other areas. He shattered his own record from the previous year, leading the Wildcats to its first 44-win season. He also led the Cats to their franchise best and league’s best home record at 26-3-1.
He and Assistant Coach Josh Nelson also radically improved the team’s defensive play. The Wildcats went from being a middling defensive team to one of the best in the league. The team’s penalty kill went from the NAHL’s third-worst to its third-best in one season. Only three teams in the NAHL allowed fewer total goals than the Wildcats did this season, which is another drastic improvement from 2014-15.
“The NAHL and Wildcats organization are blessed to have a coach and mentor of John LaFontaine’s caliber,” Wildcats General Manager Paul Baxter said. “Coach LaFontaine, along with Coach Nelson, have provided great leadership and a very strong relationship-based approach to the coaching of our players. These qualities have led to a significant improvement in our players as people and as hockey players.”
Amazingly, the impact LaFontaine has had off the ice has been even stronger than the one he’s made on the ice. It has been well-established how well his players treat one another and treat others. He has put being a good person above being a good hockey player right from the start, and it has paid dividends throughout every facet of the organization.