BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT: Well that didn’t take long.

Last year’s assistant coach, Keith McCambridge, was named the sixth head coach in Hartford Wolf Pack history on Monday just three weeks after long-time head Ken Gernander as relieved of his duties.

McCambridge is ready to go but was careful not to step on Gernander’s skates.

“It’s a very tough part of the hockey business,” McCambridge said. “Kenny gave a lot to Hartford and I can’t be anyone other than myself and I’m looking forward to getting at it. I have been in this situation before in Manitoba following popular coaches like Scott Arniel, and Claude Noel. I really believe in and demand hard work in practice as much as games and I think we have a lot of young talented prospects here.”

McCambridge, 43, joined the Rangers organization as the Wolf Pack’s Assistant Coach on August 3, 2016. Prior to working with the Wolf Pack, McCambridge served the previous five seasons (2011-12 – 2015-16) as Head Coach of the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate (St. John’s IceCaps from 2011-12 – 2014-15 and Manitoba Moose in 2015-16). He posted a 179-158-23-20 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses) during his five seasons as Head Coach of the IceCaps/Moose and guided the team to a playoff berth twice over the span.

With back-to-back losing seasons and finishing dead last in the AHL with Manitoba and Hartford, McCambridge isn’t gun shy.

“It’s tough. I like the challenge and the have changed and the speed of the game is so much different than when I played. Then you would have three or four speedy guys now its everybody. We’re going to do our best to mimic the Rangers systems and have these guys ready to help in New York,” McCambridge stated.

In his first season with the team in 2011-12, McCambridge helped St. John’s finish in first place in the Atlantic Division with a 43-25-5-3 record and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The IceCaps earned 99 points during the regular season in 2013-14 (46-23-2-5 record), and McCambridge helped the team advance to the Calder Cup Finals. In addition, McCambridge served as the Head Coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars at the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic.

Prior to becoming Head Coach of the Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate, the Thompson, Manitoba, native served as an Assistant Coach with the Manitoba Moose for two seasons (2009-10 and 2010-11). In 2009-10, McCambridge worked alongside current Rangers Associate Coach Scott Arniel (former New Haven Senator), who was the Head Coach of the Moose.

McCambridge also spent six seasons with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL (2003-04 – 2008-09), serving three seasons as a player/Assistant Coach (2003-04 – 2005-06), one season as an Assistant Coach after finishing his playing career (2006-07), and two seasons as the Aces’ Head Coach (2007-08 and 2008-09).

McCambridge played 11 seasons of professional hockey (1995-96 – 2005-06) in the AHL, ECHL, and International Hockey League (IHL). In seven AHL seasons, he registered nine goals and 21 assists for 30 points, along with 1,057 penalty minutes in 378 games.

In his final season as a player in 2005-06, McCambridge won the Kelly Cup as ECHL Champions while serving as the captain of the Alaska Aces (who folded after this past season). In addition, McCambridge helped the Kamloops Blazers win the Memorial Cup while playing his final season of junior hockey in 1994-95. He was selected by the Calgary Flames in the eighth round, 201st overall, of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.

Despite his very diverse travel portfolio, he paid respect several stops, but Connecticut caught his family’s attention.

“We have lived in some very neat places, but we really enjoy Connecticut. You can go outside the city area and you’re in a country setting. One thing I learned after mistakenly leaving the family behind to start is how important it is to have them there and we find this such a nice area to live in and the close proximity to New York and Boston is so great.”

He wouldn’t comment on what the lineup might look like when training camp opens in the fall.

“I can’t really define our lineup because there is so much activity coming up with the (Las Vegas) expansion draft, the amateur draft and free agency July 1st. That is something that Jeff (Gorton the Rangers GM) and Chris Drury (Hartford’s GM) are working on. When the dust settles I can give a a far better answer.”

(Parts of the Wolf Pack press release was used in the formation of this story)

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