Tuesday, 7 August 2018

A Couple Of Coaching Changes

While the U SPORTS team in Calgary at the Hockey Canada Developmental Camp dropped its first game against Team Japan last night, there was some movement in the coaching ranks this morning as one team filled a vacancy while another finds itself needing a coach. Coaching changes at the Canadian university level isn't something new. After all, Mike Babcock and Barry Trotz both coached at that level before ascending to bright lights and bigger rinks. Today's announcements have one coach moving up the ladder in the hockey world while the other is making more of a lateral move that should pay dividends based on her recent successes behind the bench!

Let's start with the departure as this move seems to have come out of the blue. Late last week, the Lethbridge Pronghorns announced that men's hockey head coach Spiros Anastas had resigned his position with the team to pursue another coaching opportunity. It was a move that kind of flew under the radar since the Pronghorns haven't made a ton of noise in Canada West men's hockey for a while, and Anastas had only led the program to to 5-, 11-, 11-, and 9-win seasons over the four years while compiling a 36-68-8 record in that time.

Anastas, for his part, is a good coach and really had the Pronghorns looking like they may be on the verge of turning a corner with some solid play over the last few years as his record above indicates, and he's an outstanding student of the game. Anastas had joined the Pronghorns after serving as an assistant coach with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League, and his knowledge and tactics that he employed gave Lethbridge an instant boost in their play from what was seen on the ice.

Lethbridge, for those that may not be aware, have had their share of great coaches come through their ranks. Mike Babcock spent the 1993-94 season at the campus where he led the Pronghorns to a University Cup Championship, and more recently Bill Peters, now of the Calgary Flames, called the Lethbridge campus home from 2002-05 before moving up the ranks. I name those two men because it appears that Spiros Anastas might be the next coach you want to keep an eye on that once called the University of Lethbridge home.

It was announced today that Spiros Anastas will be the new head coach for ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays!
Anastas joins a great organization that is committed to winning as proven by their three Kelly Cup Championships in 1997, 2001, and 2009. Anastas replaces Ryan Warsofsky who was hired by the AHL's Charlotte Checkers as an assistant coach earlier this summer. The Stingrays went 47-16-7-1 last season to finish second in the South Division, but were unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs in the opening round by the surprising Orlando Solar Bears who finished 29 points back of the Stingrays.

This move should be seen as a positive for both Anastas and the Stingrays. Anastas gets back into pro hockey after running a Canadian university program like a professional organization, and the Stingrays get a coach whose dedication to his craft and players, his work ethic, and his knowledge of the game should see great things continue in Charleston, North Carolina. For the Pronghorns, it's a void that will be tough to fill, especially with the Pronghorns being the host team at this year's University Cup, so I'm sure they're looking for another coach at this moment who has pro experience and can continue to build on what Anastas was doing in Lethbridge.

As for the vacancy that was filled, this one carries all sorts of possibilities based on who filled the vacancy. On May 11, Kelly Paton, the former head coach of the Western Mustangs, accepted a role at the University of Wilfred Laurier as Manager of Women's Hockey Operations and Head Coach of the Golden Hawks. Paton had taken the Mustangs to an OUA title and to a U SPORTS National Championship Final, winning silver last season, and has helped U SPORTS earn a silver medal as an assistant coach with Canada's 2017 Winter Universiade team in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In her two seasons at the helm of the Mustangs, she posted a 39-19 record in the regular season and playoffs combined.

Needless to say, those are some big shoes to fill at Western University. So who did Western hire? Someone whose feet can fill those shoes and possibly more!
That's right: Candice Moxley, formerly an assistant coach with the Clarkson Cup-winning Markham Thunder, will assume the head coaching role at Western University this fall! Outside of her professional coaching experience, Moxley was responsible for some impressive success with the Division-3 NCAA State University College at Buffalo where she led the team to the playoffs in all five of her seasons behind the bench.

Moxley was a standout at Niagara University as a player before that NCAA program was scuttled, but she parlayed that success into a three-season stint in the Canadian professional women's league. Beyond that success, Moxley also played with Team Canada's national women's ball hockey squad in 2013, and helped Team Canada win silver at the 2014 World Inline Hockey Championships. In short, Moxley brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Western University bench, and they're pretty excited to have her coaching the Mustangs.

"We're thrilled to have Candice joining our team and continue the success that has established our program into one of the best in the nation," said Christine Stapleton, the director of Sport and Recreation Services at Western, told Mike DeBoer of The Gazette. "Candice has a phenomenal depth of experience from across North America, and we're excited to see her step in and lead our team."

If the strong get stronger, both the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays and U SPORTS' Western Mustangs picked up some incredible talent to guide them through this coming season and beyond. Both Anastas and Moxley are incredible coaches, but they're also better people as they truly want to see their players succeed both on and off the ice. Those are the kinds of people I would want guiding my program moving forward, so I wish nothing but the best of luck to Spiros Anastas and his family as well as Candice Moxley and her family as they embark on new adventures this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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