@ACBulldogHockey Alumni Spotlight: Mathew Thompson Signs AHL Contract in the Chicago Blackhawks Organization

Former Bulldog standout Mathew Thompson is the first Adrian College hockey player to sign an American Hockey League contract. (Photos courtesy of Indy Fuel and Rockford Ice Hogs)
Former Bulldog standout Mathew Thompson is the first Adrian College hockey player to sign an American Hockey League contract. (Photos courtesy of Indy Fuel and Rockford Ice Hogs)

ROCKFORD, ILL.--Former two-year Adrian College team captain and 2018 American Hockey Coaches Association First Team All-American Mathew Thompson earned a contract to skate with the American Hockey League's Rockford Ice Hogs for the 2019-20 season. This comes on the heels after an impressive two-season stint with the Indy Fuel of the "Double-A" ECHL, becoming the first in Bulldog history to sign with an AHL Club, which is one step below the National Hockey League. 

Thompson, 25, played the previous two years with the Fuel while recording 58 points on 24 goals and 34 assists in 76 games. He was Indy's Rookie of the Year for 2018-19 after finishing third on the team in scoring (50 points) and assists (29) and was the ECHL Plus Performer of the Month for March after leading the league with a +13 plus/minus rating. The Bolton, Ontario, product made his professional debut late last season at Indy, notching six points (2g, 4a) in seven games during the regular season and a goal and assist in four playoff contests. He recorded his first pro point on March 20 at Cincinnati (assist) and scored his first goal two games later on March 25 at Brampton.

Thompson is no stranger to Rockford as he attended training camp with the IceHogs prior to the 2018-19 campaign before skating with the Fuel during the regular season.

Prior to his pro career, Thompson shined for four years at Adrian where he ended his collegiate career on the school's career scoring (10th, 128 points) and goals (6th, 5th). The 2018 Northern Collegiate Hockey Association Player of the Year and two-time all-conference standout also ranks third all-time with 12 game-winning tallies and fifth with 21 power-play goals. He helped Adrian to four NCHA regular-season titles, two Harris Cup postseason crowns and four NCAA Division III tournament appearances.

Adrian head coach Adam Krug said:
"I'm not surprised that Mat earned a contract in the American League. He's a great player, extremely skilled, skates well, and has a good brain, but the reason he's having this type of success is that he's detailed and extremely coachable. When he played for us, he was a Swiss Army knife, which has translated for Mat as a pro. At Adrian, Mat was a first line centerman that we could put on the wing when needed, he played a key part on our powerplay and penalty kill. Playing in those rolls for four years allowed him to continue honing his craft and ultimately made him versatile enough to play in different rolls in pro hockey. Mat has realized that there are a lot more spots available at the highest level if he can develop into a depth guy and not just a powerplay guy. There's only one Patrick Kane in Chicago, and no one is dethroning him anytime soon for playing time, so I guess bringing a responsible, but skilled, mentality to the rink is how Mat will continue to move up the ranks.
"For our program, it's great to see one of our players get rewarded at this level. Adrian College is a place to develop and realize dreams. Mat is now just one step from the National Hockey League, a place that all of our players, past and current, have dreamt about. I also think that this is great for our level of hockey. We've had multiple NHL and AHL signings over the course of the past few years. With there being no D-II hockey and many guys just missing out on D-I scholarships, we're working with athletes with D-I mindsets. Our guys at Adrian College want to play professionally and we put them in the best situations to develop and get there."
AdrianBulldogs.com recently connected with Thompson for a Q&A on his May 2 signing with the Chicago Blackhawks "Triple-A" affiliate:
What was your initial thoughts when you learned that you would be joining the Rockford Ice Hogs for a full season?
"When I initially signed I was both happy and excited. As an athlete you always want to play at the highest level you can, so to be presented with an opportunity to play at the next level is one I'm excited for. Also, it's great to have accomplishments in sports not only for yourself but for the ones that have helped you along the way. So for me to be able to tell my parents and sister the great news was something I'll never forget because they have been there, supporting me every step of the way."
You attended training camp with the Club, so what did you learn from that experience and what aspects did you improve on your game with the Fuel to get this opportunity?
"Training camp last year with Rockford wasn't exactly what I had in mind. I unfortunately got injured early on in camp but things happen for a reason and I was reminded by many to just stick with it. From camp, I went to Indy where I had finished the previous season and couldn't be happier with my time there. The guys were great this year and the coaches helped me develop as a player. Throughout the season I realized the "grind" of a full pro season is something I had never experienced. You have to be mentally and physically ready for all 72 games. This is more than double what I played in college so it was an adjustment. Also, the attention to details at the next level will always be more and more important. You have to take care of all areas of the ice and own the details as much as you can and the coaches definitely helped me understand this."
What's the significance on you to be playing in the American Hockey League? What are your expectations to be playing at the next level??
"To be able to sign the AHL is an accomplishment but in saying that I haven't played any games. Therefore, I'm happy with where I'm at but not satisfied because I want to be playing there full time this year. I understand what it will take and how much work will go into it, but I'm excited for that process."
How did a collegiate career suiting up for Adrian College prepare you to be a professional?
"My time at Adrian certainly helped me get to where I am today. The head coach Adam Krug, and the assistants, Andrew Dovey, Chase Fuchs, and Shawn Skelly, have all played a role in me getting to where I am. The program at Adrian isn't a normal Division III program and more people are beginning to realize this. Adrian not only provided me with a chance to further my education, but I don't think I'd be playing hockey where I am now if it wasn't for the College. After playing at a professional level for over a year now, it is clear to me that from (College) President (Jeffrey R.) Docking, to Athletic Director Michael Duffy, to Coach Krug, they all set you up as best they can for the next step. Whether that's in the sport you play or life, they set you up to be a professional."
Describe your experience during your two-year stint at Indy?
"The year and a half I've spent at Indy have been great. I've loved the guys here, the coaches are great, the front office cares about their team and the product, and the owner is filled with passion. To go along with this, we live in brand new apartments next door to a practice rink and gym, with plenty of amenities near-by. There's everything you could ever need and ask for here so I'd definitely recommend Indy to anyone looking to play in the ECHL."
Thompson is still living in Indianapolis, Ind., but is looking forward to moving to Rockford, Ill., and settling in with the Ice Hogs organization and getting to know his new teammates.
Adrian's pro signees the last two years:
Brian Bachnak - Peoria Rivermen - Southern Professional Hockey League
Trevor Boyd - Kalamazoo Wings - ECHL (Vancouver Canucks)
Cory Dunn - Newfoundland Growlers - ECHL (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Kevin Entmaa - Macon Mayhem - Southern Professional Hockey League
Braden Hellems - Indy Fuel - ECHL (Chicago Black Hawks)
Brian Yim - Fayetteville Marksmen - Southern Professional Hockey League
Kyle Brothers - HYS - Belgium
Dillon Kelley - Norfolk Admirals - ECHL (Arizona Coyotes)
Taylor McCloy - Norfolk Admirals - ECHL (Arizona Coyotes)
Mathew Thompson - Indy Fuel - ECHL (Chicago Black Hawks)
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