It is welcome home week for Champlain Valley Union graduate J.P. Benoit.
Benoit, a two-time state champion for the Redhawk boys hockey team, starts his first season as head coach of his alma mater on Friday, Dec. 8, when CVU takes on Lower Canada at 7:40 p.m. at South Burlington’s Cairns Arena.
“It’s good to be home,” Benoit said. “I am beyond excited. I’ll be wishing I was playing.”
The 25 year-old takes over for Mike Murray, who spent seven seasons as the CVU hockey coach, winning two state titles and appearing in three championship games. Big shoes to fill for the first-year coach.
“I had Coach Murray my senior year and he held us accountable,” Benoit said. “I learned a lot from Murray…just an understanding that you should love the kids like you love the program.”
Benoit learned of the CVU opening from his former coach Doug Hopper, who told him to take a shot at the job. The 2011 high school graduate, who has been on the Redhawks football coaching staff, was excited at the opportunity to return to the ice.
“I knew I wanted to come back (to hockey),” Benoit said. “He told me, ‘I think you would be awesome at the job, call the athletic director.’ I’m glad I did.”
With Benoit taking over the top job and bringing along assistants Erich Schwer, Tom Forgione and Jed Dousevicz, the CVU coaching staff is one of the youngest in the state, bringing a new energy but the same high expectations for the program.
“I have a staff that is really experienced in the hockey world,” Benoit said. “It will definitely be interesting.”
Benoit, who won titles in 2008-09 and 2010-11, has high hopes for his first year behind the bench, he wants to see his team at Gutterson Fieldhouse at the end of the season.
“I want to give them experience that, 10 years from now, they can look back on and be proud of,” Benoit said. “I want us to get to Gutterson, every year I coach here that