Twin City Thunder head coach Doug Friedman talks to his players during a game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn in October 2018. Friedman coached the Thunder’s Tier III team in 2018-19 and its Tier II team this past season. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Doug Friedman has stepped down as the head coach of the Twin City Thunder’s National Collegiate Development Conference team.

Co-owner Dan Hodge will take over the coaching duties of the Auburn-based Tier II junior hockey team.

Twin City Thunder head coach Doug Friedman fields questions during a 2018 news conference at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It was a mutual thing, to be honest with you,” Hodge said. “He’s a good coach and we thank him everything that he did for us. He got us to a good position, but when there’s different philosophies, there’s different philosophies. It’s part of the business and it’s part of coaching.”

Hodge and co-owner/general manager Ben Gray came to the decision that Hodge is the best person to be behind the bench.

Friedman is grateful of his two-year stint with the Thunder organization.

“I really enjoyed my time with our players, the community, our fans and working with my assistant coach Dan Condon,” Friedman said. “There’s a lot of good things and people involved with the program there, and the billet families were awesome, sponsors were awesome and some of the staff there. But I will be moving on for a new opportunity after this year.”

Friedman led the Thunder to a 26-22-2 record in the franchise’s first year playing in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Tier II league. Friedman said the team had a good season.

“We wanted a team that competed hard, played a good style, played good systems,” Friedman said. “I think we certainly had a team that was not necessarily the toughest team, but played team-tough, we led the league in (penalty minutes) and guys stood up for each other. Our special teams were near the top of the league for both power play and penalty kill. The first year as team in the NCDC, obviously our goal of the program was to hit 20 wins, we well surpassed that; as you know we just missed out on playoffs.”

The Thunder were tied for eighth and the final playoff spot but lost the tiebreaker with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. The playoffs ended up being canceled before any games were played because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“It was a great year, we had our ups and downs, obviously. We had 26 wins, which is a good benchmark to set to move forward,” Hodge said. “I thought it was successful, I thought our team achieved a lot of good things, we’ve gotten kids to college, which is obviously the biggest thing, and more kids will be making their decision here in the short term. … We fell short of the playoffs and that’s disappointing. We were right there at the end, we had a chance at the end. One point here and there could have changed it.”

The Thunder have had six players make Division II and III commitments so far.

Next season will not Hodge’s first time behind the bench. He was a player-coach with the San Angelo Saints of the old Central Hockey League during the 2004-05 season. After retiring as a player following 2005-06 season after playing year with the Tulsa Oilers also of the CHL, he became an assistant coach in the 06-07 season with the Oilers. He took over as Oilers head coach midseason of the 2007-08 season, and his tenure ended after the 08-09 season.

Hodge, the son of former Boston Bruins star Ken Hodge, returned to coaching in the 2013-14 season with the Cape Cod Islanders, serving as the coach and general manager when the team was in the Northern States Hockey League. The following season he focused solely on the GM duties.

Dan Hodge, director of hockey operations and co-owner of the Twin City Thunder addresses the media during a 2018 news conference at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. Hodge is the new coach of the Thunder’s NCDC team. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

His objective to mold hockey players on-and-off the ice.

“At this level, our focus is getting kids to college and getting that look,” Hodge said. “That’s what we are here for, that’s what I am here for. We improve the players on the ice, we improve the players off the ice that’s all we can hope for: good human beings, good young men who represent the organization well, represent the community well.”

Friedman was hired in the spring of 2018 to lead the Thunder’s Tier III Premier League team in the organization’s inaugural season. The Thunder finished with a 21-17-6 record and earned a playoff berth.

He was elevated to the NCDC head coach when the USPHL awarded Twin City a franchise for the start of the 2019-20 season.

Friedman is in search of his next opportunity, but said the process might be delayed by the coronavirus.

“Obviously, everything is kind of on hold right now with what’s going on,” Friedman said. “I have had three or four phone calls already about opportunities for next year. Everything is moving slow, as is to be expected with the current state of affairs.”


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