Thompson steps off ice and into coaching role


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Andrew Nelson

The Omaha hockey team’s revamped coaching staff for 2016-17 will feature another new face, but one that will be familiar to Maverick fans. Former Maverick goalie Kirk Thompson will rejoin the team in a different role for the upcoming season.

Thompson, the Surrey, British Columbia native, wrapped up his undergraduate degree last year and will become a volunteer assistant on the coaching staff for the 2016-17 season.

Thompson was a part-time starter for the Mavericks with three seasons of NCAA hockey experience with Omaha, finishing with a 3.9 GAA. After posting a 5-5 record his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Thompson finished 4-7 last year, stopping 294 shots for a .875 save percentage.

“I just want to play into the relationships I already have with the guys and utilize it in a way that maybe other assistant coaches aren’t able to tap into because they don’t have that level of relationship that I do,” Thompson said.

Thompson jumped on the scene his freshman year after being the first Omaha goalie to record a shut-out in his first two starts with a pair of more than 25 save performances against Bentley and Northern Michigan. He played a crucial role late in the 2014-15 season, filling in for senior starting goalie Ryan Massa when he went down with a lower-body injury. Massa would eventually return for Omaha’s first NCAA tournament birth since 2010-11, and his play between the pipes led them to the program’s first Frozen Four appearance.

“Going to the Frozen Four my sophomore year was probably the greatest experiences I’ve ever had,” Thompson said. “Experiencing that and seeing the entire city rally around us was definitely a highlight of my time at UNO.”

Transitioning from a student-athlete to volunteer assistant coach is something Thompson says he isn’t worried about.

“I wouldn’t have taken on a role like this if I didn’t think the guys had any respect for me.” Thompson said.

Thompson will be joined by former Northern Institute of Alberta hockey head coach and former UNO defenseman Mike Gabinet, who led the Ooks to the first undefeated season in Canadian Collegiate hockey history in 2015-16. Gabinet still ranks ninth in all-time scoring for UNO. New assistant coach Leigh Mendelson is also amongst the new faces on head coach Dean Blais’s staff this season. Mendelson is taking on the role as the new assistant coach and has worked with Maverick goalies since 2014 as a student assistant. Upon arriving in Omaha, Mendelson originally planned to take time off and complete his degree, saying coaching was only secondary.

Thompson is excited to get started working towards a national championship, admitting that the Mavericks have the potential if they just correct a few things they did wrong last year.

“We have the potential, it just comes down to putting in the work,” Thompson said. “There’s no excuse for it not to happen this year.”