WALLINGFORD — The Lyman Hall Co-op ice hockey team didn’t have to look far for its new coach.
The Wallingford Board of Education approved assistant coach Dave Sagnella as the team’s new head coach on Monday night.
Lyman Hall, which co-ops with Coginchaug and Haddam-Killingworth, needed to find someone to fill the hole left by Rich Minnix, who stepped down in April about a month after the Trojans won the Division III state championship.
Sagnella, 31, of Branford, has been on Minnix’s staff for the last two years. The four seasons prior to that, he was an assistant at Daniel Hand and on staff when the Tigers won a state crown in the 2013-14 season.
“It’s beyond an honor,” Sagnella said. “I want to follow in Richie’s footsteps and continue the success moving up to D-II. Ultimately, the final goal is to become a D-I program. Hopefully, it’s in the near future. Winning a state championship last year, I just want to continue the culture that Richie is already building.”
Sagnella has also coached youth hockey at Yale for the last seven years as well as spring hockey.
“You name it,” Sagnella said. “I’m a little rink rat.”
Sagnella has coached the defense the last two years. After this past season, he was selected as the state’s Assistant Coach of the Year.
“I was very defensive minded and I had full autonomy,” Sagnella said. “(Minnix) never even came down to my end of the bench. I could throw someone out there when I saw fit. I worked with penalty kill and special teams.”
Sagnella grew up in East Haven and played hockey in that town from the age of 4 through high school. At East Haven High, he was All-State defenseman as a junior and a senior before graduating in 2005.
Following a post-grad year at The Wichendon School in Massachusetts, Sagnella went on to play four years of Division II hockey at Western New England College.
How does Sagnella define himself as a coach?
“I’m defintetly a motivator,” he said. “I believe I’m a player’s coach. I will always have my players’ back. I want them to feel my energy. I get amped up for a game. I try to get them amped up for a game. I tell them I have their back. When a play goes wrong, I’m not one to sit there and yell and scream. I will explain the situation to them. I like to joke around with them and have some fun.”
Sagnella said when it’s time to get serious, his team will as well.
“When its time to get down to business, I’m very, very serious,” Sagnella said. “I know it seems like I’m all over the place, but it depends on the situation you are in as coach. If you scream and yell, they are going to get all tight. So I try to stay as positive as possible. But I will also let them know when it’s a big game and they need to get fired up.”
Sagnella said he’s excited about the Co-op’s prospects for next winter as it moves up to Division II following the D-III state title.
“The sky’s the limit. We have a ton of returners coming back,” Sagnella said. “It’s tough to replace (leading scorer) Kyle Roberts, but we have a very big core. I think we will compete heavily in D-II and I think we are going to be a contender.”
Lyman Hall athletic director Steve Baker said he’s happy to have Sagnella on board.
“He’s fired up and ready to go,” Baker said. “He wants to continue the success the program is having. He’s got big shoes to fill with Rich, but he’s worked under him the last couple of years and that will help. He will keep the team going in the right direction.”
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