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Returning to his alma mater, Red Wing native Reid Cashman (middle) is an assistant coach for the Quinnipiac men's hockey team, which earned the No. 1 seed in the 16-team NCAA tournament.

Cashman finds new life behind the bench

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Red Wing native Reid Cashman had an illustrious playing career with the Division I Quinnipiac men's hockey team, earning All-American honors three of his four years with the team.

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Now, Cashman is busy cultivating talent for the top-ranked Bobcats as an assistant coach.

"It's been a great experience to work at my alma mater and a place that I'm passionate about," Cashman said. "My boss was my coach for four years so I have a good relationship with him. That's been a pretty seamless transition."

Cashman was hired as an assistant coach prior to 2011-12 season after completing a professional career that included signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs and playing seven games for the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, the Maple Leafs' top affiliate. His final professional season came playing for the EHC Black Wings Linz of the Austrian Erste Bank Ice Hockey League.

"It was an opportunity," Cashman said of going back to Quinnipiac. "I started thinking more and more about what I would do after I was done playing. There was an opening and (Quinnipiac head coach) Rand Pecknold called me about it and we talked about it. I had an offer to go play in Germany but I thought it was a great opportunity to coach, which I wanted to do after my hockey career, and an even better opportunity to get my foot in the door at a Division I program and my alma mater so it was a pretty easy decision when I put the pros and cons and weighed them."

While playing defense for the Bobcats from 2003-2007, Cashman tallied a school record 125 career assists. He piled up 82 points and was named one of the top 50 players in Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference history. During his junior and senior seasons, Cashman poured in 41 points per season, leading the ECAC in assists both years and twice being named a Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist.

His work with the Quinnipiac defensemen is showing impressive dividends this season. The Bobcats are allowing a Division I-best 1.62 goals-per-game and boast a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker award in goaltender Eric Hartzell, of White Bear Lake, Minn. Hartzell, a senior, is third in the nation with a 1.52 goals-against average and eighth in the country with a .934 save percentage.

"Our guys have done a tremendous job," Cashman said. "I know how hard they work, but just being an alum and seeing what the whole hockey program has done and has been building towards, this isn't a flash in the pan but it's a program that's been building consistently over the last handful of years and to see things come together and get some bounces this year has been exciting."

Quinnipiac finished the regular season with a 27-7-5 record and received the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. The Bobcats, in just their second tournament appearance, will be the top seed in the East Regional, starting Saturday at Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. They will face 16-seed Canisius, of the Atlantic Hockey Association, in the first round of the tournament and while the expectations are heightened, Quinnipiac's 11 seniors are taking the moment in stride.

"Our players have done a great job of managing the expectations all year," Cashman said. "Having such a big senior class and a mature senior class has kind of helped keep things in check and realize that it's more about the day-to-day and continuing to work hard. It's more important what's going on inside the locker room as opposed to what people are saying outside of the locker room."

Cashman said he would like to be a head coach in the future but he is content to continue learning and enjoying the success of his alma mater. It doesn't hurt that the education comes from a head coach in Pecknold that hasn't experienced a losing season in the 15 years since the Bobcats became a D-I program.

"Ultimately I would love to be a head coach sometime if I have an opportunity," Cashman said. "I've figured out that those are few and far between, there are a lot of good people in the hockey world and it's tough to get those jobs. Right now, I'm pretty happy to be an assistant at a Division I program and continue to learn and get better and hopefully down the road I get an opportunity to be a head coach, whether it's college, or pro or high school or whatever it may be, but I'm sure at some point that will be a goal of mine."

The Bobcats' first round game of the NCAA tournament will begin at 4:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN3, and air again on at 10:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

"Our outlook is there's 16 teams left that are playing and why not us?" Cashman said. "I don't think there will be an easy game in the field by any means. You have to win four pretty tough games and you've got to win the first one."

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Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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