Former Plum player Mains set to lead Mustangs hockey program
When Phil Mains heard Plum hockey officials were interested in talking with him about their open head coach position, he was excited to see what they had to say.
The Mustangs hockey alum and 2005 Plum graduate coached as an assistant for Pitt’s American College Hockey Association Division I club team the past four seasons.
He was entrenched with the Panthers program and worked with his former coaches at Plum, Stu Rulnick and Jerry Bass. But, he said, the Plum job was intriguing.
The two sides met in late April, and Mains was hired a couple of weeks later.
“It’s a first for me being a head coach,” said Mains, who also played for Pitt after his time at Plum. “Not too many people get that opportunity to have their first head coaching job be at a place where they played. I’m looking forward to the challenge and to represent Plum. I am ready to get started.”
Mains, who also played football and baseball at Plum, replaces another Plum graduate, Vinnie Somma, who stepped down after three seasons.
Under Somma’s leadership, Plum made the playoffs three times. The Mustangs captured the Penguins Cup Class AA championship in 2017 and returned to the postseason this past campaign after a move up to Class AAA.
Over the past four years, Mains helped Pitt compile a 73-43 overall record.
The Panthers won the College Hockey Mid-America regular-season title and qualified for the ACHA national tournament the past two campaigns.
“I learned a lot coaching at Pitt,” Mains said. “You learn a lot being behind the scenes and what it takes in terms of preparation for not only a practice or a game but an entire season.
“I learned that it does take time and dedication to make sure you are prepared for every situation and that the team is prepared for everything. I hope that I can have a Plum team that is always prepared, always even-keeled and that is ready for any situation on and off the ice.”
As Mains grew as a coach at Pitt, Rulnick said the Pitt program grew with Mains with his knowledge and dedication on the bench.
“Phil’s work ethic hasn’t changed since I coached him in high school,” said Rulnick, Pitt’s coach since 2011. “The kid is probably one of the most hard-working kids I’ve ever had a chance to coach. I’ve said it for the last four years that I’m glad he spent the time coaching with us at Pitt because eventually, he would be a head coach somewhere. I’m glad he’s at Plum. They made a great hire, and I know he’ll do a great job.”
Rulnick said Mains still is young enough to get out there and demonstrate a play or drill during practice.
“The players totally respect him,” Rulnick said. “He’s still good at what he does when he puts on the skates.”
Mains said he is looking forward to getting started with the returning and new players. He also said he is pumped for the first Plum Alumni Golf Outing set for July 7 at Rolling Fields Golf Course in Murrysville.
More than two dozen foursomes are signed up, and others have donated to the outing which will raise money to help lessen the cost to play high school hockey at Plum.
“We’ve had a great response from local businesses, Plum hockey alumni and others,” Mains said.
Plum, Ohio State and NHL hockey alum R.J. Umberger is on board supporting the effort, and Plum graduate and former NFL All-Pro Pat McAfee will broadcast his Sirius radio show at Rolling Fields the day of the golf outing.
“We’re hoping to garner excitement for the program and hope that people will come out and watch us play,” Mains said. “We want to show that Plum hockey is excited for the community.”