UAA hockey finds its coach

Over a month ago, UAA Athletics announced that head hockey coach Matt Thomas’ contract would not be renewed for next year. Since then, interim Athletic Director Tim McDiffett and other Athletic Department staff have been busy at work searching for a replacement.

Before the final decision, two candidates had been brought to UAA to be interviewed and toured the facilities: David Carle from North Dakota and Cam Ellsworth from Massachusetts.

Carle is an Anchorage local, currently coaching as an assistant hockey coach in Denver, and Ellsworth is an assistant coach at University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Both turned down an offer to coach at UAA, according to UAA Athletic Department staff.

News of these offers were not distributed to the public through the UAA hiring committee. Ian Marks, associate athletic director of media relations, said that the hiring process did not include the public.

University of Alaska Fairbanks is simultaneously searching for a new hockey coach and including the public. With the position narrowed down to two finalists, UAF announced that a press conference will be held and community members are encouraged to attend and participate.

Marks said that there was no protocol requiring the committee to share information with the public. Only six people contributed the interviews and review process, ultimately narrowing it down to the the fourth top candidate.

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The committee includes Marks, McDiffett, Associate Director of Athletics in Development Tanya Pont and Faculty Athletic Representative Deborah Narang. The committee had two advisors including Brian Kraft, a former UAA hockey player, and Kris Knauss, a USA Hockey Pacific Division director.

In addition to Carle and Ellsworth, it was rumored that one other applicant was offered the job beforehand. As the fourth choice, Matt Curley was offered the job.

Curley accepted.

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Photo credit: UAA Media Relations

“[Matt Curley] has coaching experience at the highest levels of USA Hockey and took a chance on himself by moving his family to Austria so he could get head coaching experience,” McDiffett said in a press conference. “Today, UAA is the beneficiary of that investment and belief in himself.”

Curley, in his most recent position, served as the former head coach to the EC Red Bulls Juniors team out of Salzburg, Austria. In the 2017-18 season, the international team, comprised of skaters under 20 years old, finished seventh in the league and earned a playoff birth.

As a United States Hockey League associate head coach to the Indiana Ice, Curley led the team to 21-37-1 before moving to Bentley University.

Curley’s only experience with NCAA teams was as the assistant coach from 2013-15 with Division I Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts as part of the Atlantic Hockey Conference. The Falcons posted a record of 36-29-9 during his tenure.

Curley also served under current Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Don Granato as an assistant coach with the U.S Development Team from 2010-2012. Team USA, won silver at the 2013 Under-18 World Championships in Sochi, Russia, and a gold at the 2015 Under-18 World Championships in Zug, Switzerland during Curley’s stint with the team.

Curley will begin coaching duties in early May.