As Rhody men’s hockey team enters league playoffs, coach Joe Augustine on cusp of 700 wins

Win today against Drexel would put URI in semifinals

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 3, 2023 – Two days before the University of Rhode Island men’s club hockey team would take on Drexel University in the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League playoffs, coach Joe Augustine was talking about Rhody coaching legend Frank Keaney.

Augustine, now in his 33rd year as skipper of Rhody’s hockey team, has been reading William Woodward’s “Keaney: If You Don’t Love to Play, Pivot and Go Home.”

A MAJOR HONOR: Men’s hockey coach Joe Augustine walks toward center ice in 2019 when he was honored for coaching his 1,000 game at URI.

It makes sense. Keaney invented the fast break in basketball after watching a Boston Bruins game in 1928. Keaney was inspired by the aggressive forechecking and constant motion of hockey and he wanted his teams to incorporate such a style in basketball.

But there are other things connecting the two Rhody coaching legends. If URI wins today against Drexel in Scranton, Pennsylvania, it will give Augustine his 700th win, and move Rhody into the seminfinals. It will also bolster his well-earned reputation as a Rhody coaching legend, keeping him in the rarefied company of Keaney, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Keaney made his name in basketball, winning 401 games, but he piled up a total of 707 wins over 28 years coaching basketball, baseball, football, track, and cross country.

Not wanting to talk about his own success, which includes Rhody’s national Division I club hockey championship in 2006 and the Team USA head coaching post for the World University Games in China in 2009, Augustine talked at length about Keaney.

“Keaney was amazing as a coach, chemist, teacher and innovator, and anyone connected with URI athletics–coaches and student-athletes–should read this book,” said Augustine, a resident of Scituate. “It should be required reading. It’s a wonderful URI history.”

If Keaney were alive today, he would probably be enamored with Augustine as well. Augustine is a coach who apologized to his team and other coaches for not wearing a suit to all games this season because several major surgeries left him unable to tug on a pair of dress pants. He’s been unable to get on the ice, but he’s at every practice. He expects his players to wear jackets and ties to games and, like Keaney, he expects them to be outstanding role models. 

The Rams enter the league playoffs with an overall record 24-8-2 and 9-5 in the league to finish third in the regular season. If Rhody wins, it will play top-seeded Niagara University on Saturday, March 4, at 7 p.m.

At times, we have played very well this year, and at times we’ve been lucky,” said Augustine, a former Hall of Fame defenseman for Boston College. “We’ve also lost our focus at times. But we absolutely have a chance to win this, especially if we focus on what we have to do.

“In 33 years, though, I haven’t changed my style of coaching. It’s still fun or we wouldn’t be here.”

Chris Winnes, in his sixth year as a volunteer assistant coach and a former player in the National Hockey League, said he loves working with Augustine.

“We have great chemistry, and we have a good time,” Winnes said. “We have the same mentality when it comes to commitment to school and the team.”

The team’s captains don’t want the season to end today—for themselves or their esteemed coach who has a lifetime record of 699-343-73, heading into today’s game.

Luke Judge, a senior center fromLong Beach, New York, said the players have high expectations for each other. “The last two seasons, we lost in the semifinals, and now our seniors and juniors want to get over that hump,” said the co-captain and communication studies major and business minor. “Over the past several weekends, we have gone 9-0, but we need to stay steady.”

Fellow co-captain Mike Costello, a senior defenseman from East Islip, New York, and a marketing major, said, “I would play here for the rest of my life if I could. These have been the best four years of my life. We see each other every day at games and practices. We hang out together. I am sure we will stay in touch, but I will miss seeing guys all the time.”

Jonathan Shaw, an assistant captain from Kennesaw, Georgia, said the team is good enough to win the tournament. “When we play our style of game, we can beat anyone,” said the junior defenseman. 

Assistant captain Dylan Weichselbaumer echoed his coaches and teammates saying they have to avoid mental lapses.

“We also have to set an example for the other players and we have to listen to the coaches,” said the senior marketing major from Hampden, Massachusetts. “Obviously coach Augustine has had a major, positive influence on our four years here.”