July 24, 2012

Fuller leading Fitchburg players to success on and off the ice

By Shawn Hutcheon

Over the years, New England has proudly boasted some of the greatest coaches in all of college hockey. Names such as Jerry York (BC), Jack Parker (BU), Charlie Holt (UNH), Bill Beaney (Middlebury College) and Mike McShane (Norwich University) are legendary. Another coach who has edged his name into the annals of coaching lore is Fitchburg State University’s Dean Fuller. 

Fitchburg State coach Dean Fuller (Richard Orr Photography)

Fuller has been at the helm of the Falcons for 28 seasons. He has a career coaching record of 463 wins, 242 losses and 43 ties. Entering the 2011-2012 season, he was 10th among the all-time winningest coaches in Division 3 hockey.

During the course of his career, Fuller has guided his clubs to seven Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) championships and one Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) title.

It is that success which allows Fuller to attract some of the best talent junior, prep school and high school hockey has to offer. He and assistant coaches Malcolm MacPherson, Chris Kyne and Vinny Giambrocco leave no stone unturned when scouting.

“We put in many hours and I make sure to put in as many hours as the assistants do when recruiting,” Fuller said. “We go to the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s (EJHL) showcases and other tournaments all year round.

“We get a lot of our players from the juniors. They’re more likely to come to Fitchburg. Although, we’ve also had a lot of good players come out of high school hockey, too. If you can grab a good player out of high school, you can sometimes develop them to play the style you want them to play.”

And at FSU, that style is working for its hockey players.

“We’ve had six ECAC Players of the Year and 15 or 16 have progressed to the professional minor leagues,” Fuller said.

Despite the league championships and the development of professional players, Fuller, who is an FSU alum, still has goals as a coach.

“Like everyone, I want to win a national championship and I think with the facility we have in Fitchburg and the school’s academic reputation, we’ll continue to attract players who will help us do that,” he said.

With that in mind, Fuller is optimistic about the 2012-2013 season.

“We have a good freshman class coming in,” Fuller said. “We have five players coming in from the EJHL and one from the Atlantic Junior Hockey League. We’ll be a faster team. We’ll also have strong leadership from our captains Justin Quinn (Braintree, Mass.), Brett Provost (Ludlow, Mass.) and Trevor Lawler (Fitchburg, Mass.)”

Lawler enrolled at Fitchburg State University after playing for the EJHL’s New England Huskies. The senior Criminal Justice major felt the school was the right one for him. He also believed in Fuller’s coaching style.

“He (Fuller) preaches defense first,” the captain explained. “If you can keep the other teams from scoring and you have the talent to score goals, which we do, then you’ll win a lot of games. His record proves his system works.

“The most important thing about Dean is, he can be trusted. He keeps his word. He always preaches character. He constantly tells us to keep our grades up. He wants his players to be at the top of their class. It’s important to be a great student.”

Senior forward Joe Caveney (Fitchburg, Mass.) agrees with Lawler. Caveney did not begin his college career at FSU but he decided to finish it there because of Fuller’s commitment to his players on and off the ice.

“I transferred into Fitchburg during the Christmas break last year because I’ve known Dean all my life,” Caveney answered when asked why he chose the school. “I grew up in Fitchburg and he lives down the street from me. I decided to go there because of Dean. He has your best interest in mind, not only as an athlete but as a person too.”      

While Fuller has enjoyed the type of success other coaches dream of, it is the team’s graduation rate of which he is most proud.

“I can’t remember the last time a player didn’t graduate,” Fuller said. “If a player does not go on to pro hockey, they find great jobs in fields such as computer science, criminal justice, communications and many other areas. Fitchburg State is a great school and it has a lot to offer to a student-athlete.”    

Through shrewd recruiting, Fuller has directed his Fitchburg State University squads to league championships and through his leadership and commitment to his players, he is molding young men who will use what they have learned from him to be leaders in every facet of their lives, making his off-ice accomplishments just as legendary as the ones his teams have notched on it. 

Shawn Hutcheon can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.