New UAA coach Thomas is raring to take the reins

Doyle Woody

Between embracing his new hockey job at UAA and smoothing his exit from his previous post with the Stockton Thunder, and between an avalanche of phone calls and texts that stormed his phone, Matt Thomas' Tuesday played out like one exciting, exhausting shift.

"It looks like a tornado in my office,'' Thomas reported by phone with a laugh well into the day he was hired as the fifth head hockey coach in UAA history. "I was looking for my computer, couldn't find it, and then realized with everything going on that I hadn't even taken it out of my bag.''

The pace isn't likely to ease soon.

Thomas, 37, faces ample work immediately ahead to smooth the transition for the next Thunder coach, and his plate is also overflowed with Seawolves work with the season opener less than four months away. Mid-June is exceedingly late for a college coaching transition -- the only other head coaching opening in Division I is at Alabama-Huntsville, where Kurt Kleinendorst resigned May 29.

In Stockton, Thomas said he needs to complete tasks that will ease the job on his successor.

"I need to leave the team in a good spot,'' he said.

The Thunder at month's end are also losing their longtime team president, Dan Chapman, who will become an associate athletic director at the University of Pacific in Stockton.

Beyond making contact with all returning UAA players and incoming freshmen -- that's roughly 26 players total -- Thomas must assemble a staff that includes two paid, full-time assistant coaches.

Thomas replaces Dave Shyiak, who was fired March 29. UAA did not renew the contract of associate head coach Campbell Blair, a former coaching colleague of Thomas' at Maine, and gave assistant coach T.J. Jindra the option to remain on staff.

Thomas said he would like to open both positions below him in order to find the best possible staff.

"The important thing to me is I want to open up the positions and see who is interested,'' Thomas said. "It's the best strategy for me and in the best interests of the university. I think the world of Campbell, and T.J. has done a great job, and I like his background.

"In the long run, there are a lot of good people out there. I need to get the best available people.''

As for recruiting at this late date, Thomas said he would like to add one more defenseman, possibly two, and perhaps one more forward.

Thomas said he hopes to be in Anchorage full-time beginning the week of July 7. His family -- wife Andrea and sons Devlin (3) and Gavin (2) -- will likely follow in August.

"I'm really excited to get up there, get settled, get a house, dig our heels in and become part of the community,'' Thomas said.


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