Matt Thomas named head hockey coach
The fifth head coach in UAA program history, Thomas comes to the Seawolves after nine years as a head coach and general manager in the ECHL, including the last four-plus seasons with the Stockton Thunder. Most recently, Thomas led the Thunder to a 37-26-5 record and the Kelly Cup finals in 2012-13.
"I would like to thank Dr. Spindle, the search committee, (interim athletic director) Tim McDiffett and the entire UAA Athletics staff for this tremendous opportunity to lead the Seawolf Hockey program,” Thomas said. "This is an exciting challenge as we try to take UAA hockey to the next level in a year full of change. The new look of the WCHA and college hockey landscape offers a unique opportunity for our student-athletes. I am committed to the individual success of our players and want to let them know they will be an integral part of restoring a winning tradition.
“I have always admired the sense of community and pride that is associated with Anchorage and the entire state of Alaska, and our entire family is excited about the move. It truly is a ‘hockey state.’ My goal is to bring back the passion for UAA hockey and produce a winner for the community, alumni and our fan base.”
With a lifetime record of 342-225-80 (.564), Thomas ranks No. 5 on the professional league’s all-time wins list, including a 163-127-39 mark with the Thunder. At Stockton, he inherited a last-place team midway through the 2008-09 campaign and led it to a 22-16-4 finish and a playoff berth. In 2009-10, the Thunder advanced to the Western Conference finals, and in 2010-11 they set franchise records for points (86) and road wins (19), tying for the Pacific Division title.
“We're very excited that Matt Thomas will be joining Seawolf Athletics as our new head hockey coach," said Dr. Spindle. “Matt's extensive experience as a head coach, coupled with his incredible enthusiasm for rolling up his sleeves and facing UAA's program challenges head-on, make him the right choice to lead the Seawolves as we head into a new league and a new season this fall.”
From 2005-08, Thomas was the head coach/GM of the ECHL’s Fresno Falcons, racking up a 137-76-33 (.624) record in three and a half seasons. Under his guidance, the Falcons reached Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference finals, where they lost 3-2 in double overtime, and were in first place in the Pacific when the team ceased operations in December 2008.
Thomas got his head coaching start with the ECHL’s Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies in 2004, leading his squad to a 42-22-8 (.638) mark as the league’s youngest coach. As an assistant coach and director of hockey operations for the New Jersey franchise for the previous two seasons, he helped the Bullies to a combined 92-43-18 record and the 2003 Kelly Cup title.
The bench boss for two ECHL All-Star Games (2005, 2009), Thomas’ teams advanced 126 players to the AHL in his 11 combined seasons as a head or assistant coach.
Prior to joining the professional ranks, Thomas spent three seasons as an NCAA assistant coach, including two seasons at Div. I program Maine from 2000-02. At Maine he was part of a Black Bears squad that was the 2002 NCAA runner-up, and in his lone season at his alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology, he helped the Tigers to the 1999 NCAA Div. III semifinals.
A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Thomas played four seasons at RIT from 1994-98, captaining the Tigers to an NCAA berth and No. 1 ranking as a senior, while capturing all-star honors. He earned a B.S. in criminal justice/pre-law from RIT in 1998.