June 11, 2009 - ECHL (ECHL) - Stockton Thunder
STOCKTON, Calif. - The Stockton Thunder, the proud ECHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League and Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League, has signed head coach Matt Thomas to a two-year contract extension, Thunder president Dan Chapman announced today. Per club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"We're thrilled to have Matt Thomas back as the head coach of the Thunder and lead our organization for at least the next two seasons," said Chapman. "In talking with others around the ECHL and professional hockey, Matt is very highly regarded and considered by many as one of the best coaches in the league."
"I think when you look at our league and the places that rank up there in terms of great places to coach and play, Stockton's up there - it's a great place to play and coach when you factor in the fans, front office, arena and it makes me excited to come back to the professional element that Stockton has," said Thomas. "Obviously our expectation next season is to have a much better regular season - that we're a not a team that's just fighting for a playoff spot. We're looking to build on playoff success with one goal - the same as each place I've been - winning the Kelly Cup. If you aren't pursuing that each year, you aren't doing your job. I'm happy to pursue that in Stockton."
Thomas returns to the bench for his sixth year as a head coach and his first full season behind the Thunder bench. The 33-year old was named Thunder head coach on Dec. 29, 2008 where he succeeded Chris Cichocki and orchestrated a swift turnaround of Stockton's season.
Following his arrival, the Thunder season veered in a swift 180-degree fashion, turning a 10-17-4 record into a 22-16-3 finish after Dec. 31 and clinching its third consecutive Kelly Cup Playoff berth. The Thunder upset the Pacific Division champion Ontario Reign in the first round and reached the seventh game of the second round against the Las Vegas Wranglers.
Thomas is in his third head coaching position, previously spending the last four years plus as head coach for the Fresno Falcons, who ceased operations on Dec. 22, 2008 after beginning the year with a record of 18-10-2 in 30 games for 38 points, leading the Pacific Division.
Overall, Thomas has compiled a record of 201-114-44 and a winning percentage of .621 in 359 career games at the helm for Stockton, Fresno and Atlantic City.
Thomas has been never missed the playoffs in his five years as a head coach and two years as an assistant, launching his pro career as an assistant for Head Coach Mike Haviland (currently an assistant coach for the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL) when the two helped guide the Altantic City Boardwalk Bullies to a Kelly Cup Championship in 2002-03.
Thomas has made two appearances as coach at the ECHL All-Star Game in his career, most recently in 2009 while representing the Thunder for the National Conference. Thomas was also named to the American Conference in the 2005 ECHL All-Star Game in his first year as head coach for Atlantic City and was the youngest head coach in the ECHL at age of 29 when hired by Fresno in 2005-06.
That season, Thomas guided the Falcons to a berth in the National Conference Finals and led the club to its first Division Title in Falcons history with a record of 43-15-14 and 100 points.
Under Thomas' guidance in 2005-06, the Falcons accomplished a seemingly impossible feat and became the first team in ECHL history to finish the regular season without a regulation loss inside of their own division.
The native of Mississauga, Ontario spent two seasons as an assistant coach at the national-power University of Maine (NCAA) and helped guide the Black Bears to the NCAA Championship Game in 2001-02. Thomas began his coaching career as an assistant coach for his alma mater, the Rochester Institute of Technology, which advanced to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four during his one year behind the bench in 1999-00.
Following a junior career in the Metro (Toronto) Junior A Hockey League, he arrived at RIT, where he served as captain. He helped RIT achieve a #1 ranking and an NCAA Tournament bid during his senior season on his way to earning ECAC Division III West All-Star honors for himself.
Thomas and the Thunder return to the ice for preseason play on Thursday, Oct. 8 against the Bakersfield Condors, starting at 7:00 p.m. at Stockton Arena. The 2009-10 season, the fifth year anniversary for the team, launches on Friday, Oct. 16 at Qwest Arena against the Idaho Steelheads at 6:10 p.m. and the Thunder home opener is Friday, Oct. 23 against the Ontario Reign at 7:30 p.m. at Stockton Arena.
The Thunder was voted "Best Local Sports Team" by readers of the San Joaquin Magazine, has led the ECHL in attendance for four consecutive seasons and drew 223,854 fans to Stockton Arena in 2008-09. Season tickets for 2009-10 are on sale now. For more information about tickets, merchandise, or other inquiries contact the Stockton Thunder offices at (209) 373-1500 or visit http://www.stocktonthunder.com/.
-- YOU GOTTA LOVE THESE GUYS --
MATT THOMAS' PRO COACHING HIGHLIGHTS AND CAREER RECORD:
2008-09: Guided Thunder to 22-16-3 record to end regular season, seven-game series victory over Ontario in first round (reached Pacific Division Final)
2008-09: Achieved his 200th win in head coaching career on 3/27 vs. Utah
2008-09: Hired as Thunder head coach on Dec. 29, guided team to 7-0-1 record in first eight games
2008-09: Guided Fresno to 18-10-2 record (38 points), 1st place in Pacific before Fresno ceased operations on Dec. 22
2005-06: Guided Fresno to first Kelly Cup Playoff berth, 100-point season (47-19-12 record) and National Conference Finals (Were defeated in series 4-3 to Alaska)
2005-06: Achieved his 100th win in head coaching career on 12/16 at Johnstown
2005-06: At age 29, was named youngest head coach in ECHL when hired by Fresno
2004-05: Guided Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies to Kelly Cup Playoff berth (reached American Conference Semifinal) in first year of head coaching career
2004-05: Named coach for American Conference squad at 2005 ECHL All-Star Game
2004-05: Achieved first victory as Head Coach on 10/23 at Greenville (3-2 win)
2002-03: Helped win Kelly Cup Championship with Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies in first year as assistant coach