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2019-20 Coaching Staff

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The Washington Little Capitals are pleased to announce the Head Coaches and Hockey Ops Staff for the 2019-20 season.

Hockey Director & 18u Head Coach Matt Thomas

Entering his second year with the club, Matt Thomas joined the Washington Little Capitals in March 2018 as the new Hockey Director after seven years coaching at the NCAA Division 1 level. 

As Hockey Director, Thomas has already transformed a variety of aspects within the WLC routine-- informational sessions for parents to show them a path for their child's advancement, a formalized educational program for older players, and a commitment to developing players through a new practice model designed to enhance team-play, position-specific skills, and individual creativity on the ice. (Read more  here)

In just one season as 18U Head Coach, and despite having only three 18-year-olds on the roster, Thomas has cemented the squad as a force in the  region, going 11-0-1 vs Southeast opponents. "We have a number of players getting attention for some high-visibility junior hockey opportunities... and that's really my job with this team." The team won the USAH Tier 1 Southeast District Championship and earned a bid to the USAH National Tournament in April.  (Read more here)

While coaching at the NCAA Division 1 level Thomas recruited extensively in every developmental league in North America, building relationships with coaches that will benefit Little Caps players as they seek to continue their careers.

Prior to his arrival here, Thomas served as Assistant Coach at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) since 2011. Hired by Head Coach Mike Corbett in his first days at UAH, Thomas assisted the Chargers since their inaugural season as members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference (WCHA) and increased their win percentage each season. Thomas was individually responsible for team defensive systems and defensemen, even coaching UAH’s first-ever WCHA All-League selection.  His final season in 2017-18 featured a number of milestones for UAH; four wins against top-20 teams, UAH's first-ever WCHA goal scoring leader, highest-ever playoff seeding, and first-ever playoff win.

Prior to coaching at UAH, Thomas served as the volunteer assistant coach for the eight-time NCAA champion University of Denver Pioneers from 2011 to 2013, appearing in the national tournament in both of his seasons.  While at Denver, he contributed in numerous aspects within the program; including video, practice planning, and individual on-ice instruction. 

Thomas’s first coaching experience came at his alma mater, the United States Naval Academy. From 2009 to 2011, he served as Assistant Coach of the Navy Hockey program (ACHA D1).  Among his many responsibilities was Recruiting Director; where, despite rigorous admissions standards and prerequisites, he facilitated the matriculation of fifteen recruits in two years—a group which led Navy to their first ACHA National Tournament.  Thomas personally recruited Navy’s first-ever ACHA Hall of Fame member, Navy’s all-time leading scorer, multiple all-league selections, and candidates for highly specialized branches of service.  

A 2005 graduate of the Naval Academy, Thomas was commissioned as Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy. Upon graduation, Thomas reported to Norfolk, VA, and remained there for four years, serving aboard USS MONTEREY (CG 61) as Tomahawk/Harpoon Officer and USS ELROD (FFG 55) as Damage Control Assistant.  In total, he completed three wartime deployments in support of US and NATO operations worldwide.  His final tour was as an Assistant Operations Director for Military Sealift Command Headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard. 

Thomas was a four-year letter-winner and team captain at Navy, where he led the defense in scoring and plus/minus during his junior and senior seasons.  As an All-League player, Thomas earned an invitation to participate in the USA Hockey World University Games camp in 2004.  Thomas is a Level-4 certified coach and has coached at the USAH Select 15 and 16 Player Development Camps for the past seven years.  

He also scouts for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League (USHL). 

Goalie Coach Brent Johnson

The Little Caps are pleased to announce that Brent Johnson will be returning as Head Goalie Coach for the 2019-20 season.

A 12-year NHL veteran, Johnson is originally from Farmington, MI. He played junior hockey for Owen Sound in the OHL before being drafted by St. Louis in 1995.  He began his NHL career in St. Louis before moving to Phoenix and then the Washington Capitals, eventually finishing his NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012.   He hails from a hockey-rich family; his father Bob Johnson also played goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and his grandfather Sid Abel is a member of the NHL Hall of Fame.  In addition to coaching the Little Caps, Johnson covers the Washington Capitals providing analysis for Comcast Sports Network.

"Brent is a major asset for our club," says Hockey Director Matt Thomas. "Not only for his technical expertise in goaltending, but also his overall knowledge and perspective on the game. He's been a great resource for our entire staff."

16u Head Coach Duante Abercrombie

The Little Caps are pleased to welcome back Duante Abercrombie as the Head Coach of the 16U National Team for the 2019-20 season.

Abercrombie is an alumnus of Gonzaga College High School (Class of 2005), where he helped Gonzaga win 4 MSHL/ MAPHL Championships, multiple Purple Puck Championships, and numerous games over nationally ranked prep school programs, as a player (2001- 2005) and a coach (2008- 2013).  He is currently coaching his third season at Georgetown Preparatory School, and in his first year, he helped lead his team to its first IAC Championship in many years.

Hockey has taken Abercrombie around the world.  He has trained throughout the United States and Canada, and has played parts of three professional seasons in Auckland, New Zealand, Pittsburgh, PA, and Brewster, NY.   He has been the senior instructor with his mentor Graeme Townshend’s (former NHL player and coach) hockey school for the past 4 years. He was personally responsible for the on ice development and off ice video work of players already drafted to the NHL and currently playing NCAA Division 1. He has trained with some of the top stars in the NHL, and he has personally trained numerous AAA, Prep, Junior, NCAA, and Pro players.  It was during this time training at BTNL (Oakville, Ontario) and Twist (Whitby, Ontario) that he developed an appreciation for skill development. 

"Duante is a gifted and committed young coach," says Hockey Director Matt Thomas. "He's truly invested and focused on the development concept and I'm excited to see what he can do with our 2003 squad next season."

Executive Director & 15u Head Coach Doug Plocki

After a sabbatical year spent developing the Little Caps from behind-the-scenes in his role as Executive Director, Plocki is set to lead the 15u squad for the 2019-20 season. This will be his 11th season with the club.

Plocki began coaching WLC Midget teams in 2009, and is proud of the players he helped develop, and the young men and women he helped to forge a bright future, on and off the ice.

“Doug is the most accomplished and decorated coach in the club—and it’s not even close,” says Hockey Director Matt Thomas. “Getting him back in the mix is a massive boost to our cadre of coaches and the 15u squad.”  

Plocki accepted the Director role two years ago, spent last season solely in that role to help the Club build for its future.  “It was hard to step away from the coaching role, but also very satisfying getting some projects off the ground. Going forward, I’m very excited to work with Matt [Thomas] and Lyon [Messier] on the hockey side, and our new owners on the business side, to help the Little Caps to national prominence.”

For the past two years, Plocki has focused on building a tool set to help stabilize the Club.  “We completely overhauled our internal processes, and re-wrote our contracts, policies, and budgeting platform.  We also built tools to improve hockey operations – the WLC Player Development Model, the WLC Coach Education Program, for example.”  The coming year will be spent expanding Club offerings, improving our coaching and development models, improving relationships with local hockey clubs, getting back in touch with our Alumni, and improving our marketing efforts.  Plocki also helps mentor and evaluate WLC coaches, and still jumps on the ice to run practices.  “I love being on the ice, and we are always looking for ways to improve what we offer our players.”

As a Little Caps coach, Plocki helped several Little Caps players reach their dream of playing college hockey, and placed players in top junior leagues in the United States and Canada.  His teams also collected some hardware along the way.  He helped Little Caps teams win four Southeast District titles in nine years, advancing to the USA Hockey National Tournament each of those seasons.   His teams have won titles in the Tier-1 Elite Hockey League, North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), and National Junior Prospects Hockey League (NJPHL).  Players on his teams have been regular fixtures at the Atlantic Youth Hockey League All-Star games, and multiple league All-Academic Teams..

Plocki is a Pittsburgh native who began coaching in 1992 with the State College Youth Ice Hockey Association.  He returned to Pittsburgh to coach at his high school alma mater and the local Tier-I programs.  Plocki began coaching in the DC area in 2006 with the Kettler Capitals Iceplex youth program.  He helped coach Kettler's Tier-1 Development Camps beginning in 2008 before joining the Little Caps.  “These past few years we’ve moved players into the USHL, NAHL, OHL, multiple Division I and III programs, and have seen many young men and women earn college degrees and launch what are sure to be successful futures.  I’m looking forward to continuing that trend.”  Plocki is a USA Hockey Level 5 certified coach, and has coached at the USA Hockey National Development Camp for the past two summers.  “That was an awesome experience- to connect with so many talented players and coaches was a massive learning opportunity and a real honor.  I can bring what I learned there to the Little Caps.  It’s a great way to help our players and coaches.”   

Plocki graduated from Penn State University in 1996 with a BS in Administration of Justice, and earned his JD from George Mason University School of Law in 2002.  He owns and operates a law firm in Fairfax City, and lives with his wife Ayana in Arlington.

Bantam Major (2005) & Director of Player Development Lyon Messier

The Little Caps are pleased to announce that Director of Player Development Lyon Messier will return to coach the Bantam Major (2005) squad for the 2019-20 season.

Messier grew up in the Washington area, and played youth hockey with the Northern Virginia Ice Dogs and the Little Caps.  He then played junior hockey for the Texas Tornado in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), where he won a national championship, and later with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League (USHL). He played major junior hockey in Canada for the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) and Erie Otters (OHL), before moving on to play pro hockey for the New Mexico Scorpions of the Central Hockey League (CHL).  He was invited to the New York Rangers main camp, played an AHL game, and then went to the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) where he won the Kelly Cup with the South Carolina Stingrays. "I feel confident my experience can help our players,” Messier says.  

Hockey Director Matt Thomas has been extremely pleased with what he's seen from Messier in the past year, saying "Lyon is a true professional-- you can see his respect and passion for the game in how he prepares and goes about his business. For a kid in this area still learning about the skills, tactics, and mindset of high-level hockey, I can't think of a better Head Coach than him."

Bantam Minor (2006) Head Coach Connor Cunningham

The Little Caps are pleased to announce Connor Cunningham will serve as Head Coach of the Bantam Major (2006) team for 2019-20.  Cunningham is a proud product of the local hockey market, playing for the Reston Raiders, Virginia Statesmen Junior B, and the Washington Junior Capitals in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League.  He spent three years at Salisbury School, where he helped win the New England Prep League Championship.  He also played junior hockey for the Valley Junior Warriors in the EJHL before moving on to play hockey at St. Lawrence University. 

Cunningham previously coached the 2003 group for the Little Caps from 2014-2016 .  He also coached at Broad Run High School, and was the Head Skills Instructor at Cold Rush from 2015-2016. He has had the opportunity to learn about player development from former NHL players like Paul Mulvey and Jeff Halpern as well as current professional players. This past season Cunningham was the head coach for the U15 team, taking the team to play in the USAH Southeast District Championships in Tampa.  

“I am very excited to be working with the 06 birth year this coming season and teaching them the process of becoming good players as well as good people,” says Cunningham.

"Connor is dedicated to developing the hockey talent in the region," notes Hockey Director Matt Thomas. "He is passionate about teaching the skills of hockey as well as the life lessons it has to offer."

Peewee Major (2007) Head Coach Nick Carso

The Washington Little Capitals are pleased to announce Head Coach Nick Carso is returning to the 2007 Pee-Wee Major Team for the 2019-20 season.  After a sabbatical last season, Carso returns for his second season coaching Pee-Wee Major. He previously coached the Little Caps Bantam Major/Minor Teams for five seasons which included Five trips to the USA Hockey Southeastern District tournament.  Nick has experience coaching at all levels within Washington Little Capitals-- including coaching the Junior squad which won the 2004 AJHL Championship.   Nick is a USAH Level 4 coach and has participated in the USA Hockey Development camps for the U16 age group.

A local product, Nick played for Little Caps from squirt through Juniors, participated in USA Hockey Nationals as a midget and a junior player, and won the MJHL Junior B Championship in 1996 with the Jr Capitals. After Little Caps, Carso went to Westminster Prep School and NCAA Division I UMASS-Lowell in Hockey East.  He also participated as a player in the USA Hockey Select camps in Lake Placid.

Nick has coached players of all levels and will be focusing on the necessary skill development at the Pee Wee level this upcoming year.  Players he coached have moved on to play in for NCAA Division I and III, ACHA, USHL, and NAHL programs, including the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), ECHL, and other professional leagues. 

"We're extremely pleased to have Nick back in the cadre of coaches for the upcoming season," says Hockey Director Matt Thomas. "As a local product, former Little Cap player, NCAA Division 1 student-athlete, and experienced Head Coach he brings a ton to the table."

PeeWee Minor (2008) & Asst. Director of Player Development Ryan Yoon

The Little Caps are pleased to announce Ryan Yoon as the Head Coach for the Peewee Minor (2008) Team. This will be Yoon's third year with the club, and he has also recently been named Assistant Director of Player Development.

Yoon brings a wealth of overall coaching experience to the Little Caps, which, combined with his natural energy and enthusiasm for teaching, makes him the perfect man to lead the 2008 group. 

In addition to coaching youth clubs in Korea, Yoon has been coaching youth hockey in the area for the past three years with the Little Caps and Medstar's Caps Hockey Academy.  He is a proud product of the local hockey market, having played youth hockey for the Reston Raiders, and junior hockey for the Potomac Patriots before moving on to play professionally in Korea in the KIHL.  He returned to this area in 2016 eager to give back to the hockey community.  He excels at teaching young players solid fundamentals, and his energetic and positive personality instills passion in his players.

"I have high expectations for this coming season," offers Yoon. "Players on this team are going to learn, get better at the game they love, and have FUN doing it."

Hockey Director Matt Thomas sees Yoon as a big piece of the Little Caps plans moving forward. "Ryan's passion and enthusiasm is remarkable. He's really taken to heart the commitment we've made to practicing hard, daily. "

Strength & Conditioning Coach Ify Achebe

The Little Caps are pleased to announce that Ify Achebe will again serve as the club's Strength and Conditioning Coach.

Achebe is a 2002 graduate of  Marymount University where she earned a BA in Human Performance and Athletic training. At Marymount, she was a triple sport athlete; playing NCAA basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse. 

She earned her Master's degree in Athletic counseling/Sports Psychology from Springfield College in Massachusetts.  She  holds certifications in strength and conditioning and is also  a certified massage therapist .

In addition to her position with the Little Caps, she serves at Landon School as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning  Coach, and is a personal trainer and massage therapist at Bulldawg athletic training and physical therapy.

"I have been with the Little Caps since 2012, and am extremely fortunate to work with a club  where our value system is focused on long term development," says Achebe. "We work as a family to offer a support system that is all encompassing--  from life development to hockey. This enables our athletes to mature into skilled hockey players and emerge as great people."

Read more about Ify here.