The new men’s hockey assistant coach at Williams College says he’s excited to be returning to the college game.
“Williams has a legacy for hockey,” said Nate Skidmore. “It was something that I wanted to be a part of when I saw my first game. I saw Williams play Wesleyan when they lost in the [NESCAC] semifinals right before COVID hit. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to go for that job if it opened up.”
Skidmore has come on board in Williamstown, replacing Eric Sorenson, who left in the winter to take over as the head coach at Division III Rivier. Sorenson has since moved on and is an assistant coach at Division I Holy Cross.
Skidmore comes to Williams after a year as an assistant coach and goalies coach for the Odessa (Tex.) Jackalopes of the Tier II junior North American Hockey League. Before that, the former Hobart College goalie spent a year as a volunteer assistant coach at nearby RPI.
“He’ll have a similar role to the one Eric had with us,” said Williams head coach Bill Kangas. “We’re excited to have him for sure. The experience he had both at RPI and Odessa got him very well prepared. As you can imagine, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades when you get into coaching. The fact that he’s had a little more experience as a player and coaching goalies helps.”
Kangas is in his 31st or 32nd year at Williams, depending on counting the pandemic-cancelled 2020-21 season. In the 2019-20 season, Williams went 17-8-1, losing 3-2 in overtime at Wesleyan in the NESCAC tournament semifinal round. Mac Carso’s goal with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game into overtime. Carso will be one of the players Skidmore will have a chance to work with in the 2021-22 season.
The veteran head coach said his new assistant’s experience in playing and coaching at multiple levels will only help Williams.
Anytime you can add diversity to your resume. He’s been to multiple places. He’s played junior hockey himself, had the experience of playing Division III college hockey and having been at RPI,” Kangas said. “He knows our team. He knows our league. He knows what we’ve done. He had a great experience last year. College hockey and most of hockey was shut down. That league was playing, so he was able to continue his coaching development and be more seasoned coming into this year.
The Jackalopes are one of 29 teams that participate in the NAHL. Six of those teams play in the South Division where Odessa plays. That division has six teams in Texas, one in Louisiana and one in New Mexico. The 2020-21 Odessa roster had players from nine states, Canada and one player born in Spain. Eight members of that roster came from Michigan.
The last Williams roster, meanwhile, was predominantly made up of players who chose to go the prep school route. The new assistant said that his experience and knowledge of the NAHL and junior hockey could help the Ephs.
“It’s going to be still finding students who have the academics to go to a place like Williams. This opens up a new part of junior hockey, for sure,” Skidmore said. “The Southern Division in the North American Hockey League is arguably the best division in the league. Of the last 10 years, at least seven champions have come from the South. It’s known as being the oldest, the heaviest, the toughest hockey to play. It’s going to be nice to be able to talk to those coaches. Especially during the COVID year last year, the coaching fraternity down there was really close, just making sure we were able to play every single weekend. The communication was massive.
“Now, I can reach out to a guy like Jason Campbell, who just won it at Shreveport and ask him about a couple of guys. If there’s a kid who has the grades to be able to go to Williams, we have a shot at him.”