UAA head hockey coach released from position

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UAA hockey head coach Matt Thomas speaks at a press conference soon after starting the position in 2013. Thomas’ contract will not be renewed, prompting a nationwide search for a new head coach. Photo credit: UAA Athletics

As announced in late February by the University of Alaska, the position that Matt Thomas held, as head coach of the hockey team, was terminated and a search for a replacement began immediately.

After five years as head coach, Thomas leaves the team with a declining overall record that had the community questioning the continuation of UAA hockey program.

The termination came just a few days after Thomas’ fifth season, which resulted in a total of four wins, out of 34 games played, resulting in an 11 percent win average.

During the 2017-18 season, the team managed to accumulate the second least amount of wins in program history. The four wins were only just three more than the 2002-03 season had; with only one win for the season, they hold the program record for the least amount of wins.

His career at UAA only progressed downward, a trend that interim athletic director Tim McDiffett wanted to prevent from continuing.

It was not originally expected to result in such an extreme decline, with Thomas’ first season record being 18-16-4, it only tapered from there.

Overall, Thomas concluded his time at UAA with 48 wins, 105 losses and 21 ties, resulting in a 0.336 winning percentage.

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Previous coaches also finished off with similar percentages. Dave Shyiak had 0.332, John Hill had a 0.325, and Dean Talafous had a 0.338, which puts Thomas close to the top.

These statistics prompted Thomas and other athletic department staff to question what the real problem might be, with four coaches and over 25 seasons consisting mainly of losses, Thomas argued that bad coaches aren’t the issue.

Regardless, McDiffett and other staff from UAA Athletics thought it would be best.

“We just feel we need to be more competitive. We want to compete for championships. We didn’t see the trajectory going in the right direction,” McDiffett announced with his decision of termination.

A nationwide search for replacement has already begun.