STEVENS POINT (PRESS RELEASE) – UW-Stevens Point's Wil Nichol has announced that he will step down from his position as head coach of the men's hockey program effective June 1. Nichol will step aside to pursue other career opportunities.
"I'd like to thank Frank O'Brien, Fred Hebert, Rory Suomi, Marty Loy, Mark Nook, Bernie Patterson, the Blue Line Club, my staff, the fans, the players and my family for all of their support the past four years," said Coach Nichol. "I have accepted a job with an NHL team in the front office on the hockey operations side that will begin this summer. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that I and my family are extremely excited about.
"It has been an incredible privilege to lead this program for the past four years. I'm proud of our 100% graduation rate during my tenure, how our players have conducted themselves on and off the ice, including their heavy involvement in community service and how they have represented the school. I am confident that this culture will continue in the future.
In his three-plus seasons at the helm of the men's hockey program, Coach Nichol has to date guided the Pointers to a 46-44-7 overall record and a 20-32-4 record in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA), arguably one of the nation's most competitive collegiate hockey conferences. The Pointers have qualified for the league's postseason tournament each of his first three seasons and last season defeated UW-Stout in the quarterfinal round to advance to the team's first NCHA tournament semifinal appearance since 2004, snapping a 12-game losing streak in the postseason.
"We are grateful for the four years Wil has been our head coach," said UW-Stevens Point Athletic Director Frank O'Brien. "He has been a part of our hockey family as a player, assistant and head coach and we are thankful for his efforts. We wish him the best in his new endeavor."
Nichol was a defenseman for the Pointers from 1994-98 and captained UW-Stevens Point's NCAA Division III runner-up team in 1998 under former coach Joe Baldarotta. Nichol played in all 121 possible career games with the Pointers, totaling five goals and 20 assists.
Prior to accepting the position at UW-Stevens Point, Nichol coached Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) to a pair of WIAA state tournament appearances and a 46-3 record over two seasons. The Panthers became the first team to complete an undefeated Wisconsin Valley Conference season, accomplishing the feat in both of Nichol's seasons with 16-0 league records each year.
He spent the 1998-99 season as a student assistant coach with the Pointers and completed his degree in English. While at UW-Stevens Point, Nichol received the Chancellor's Leadership Award and the athletic department's citizenship award. Nichol was then a graduate assistant coach for two seasons at Miami University (Ohio), earning a master's degree in Physical Education, Health and Sports Studies.
Nichol, a Madison native who attended Madison West High School, was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for one season with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League before assuming head coach and general manager roles for the IMG Academy Midget AAA team in Bradenton, Fla. the following year. He returned to Chicago as the head coach and general manager for two seasons in 2003-05 and became the first rookie coach in USHL history to land league coach of the year honors after taking the Steel from ninth place to their only regular season Eastern Conference title in franchise history. Nichol coached 30 players who went on to play Division I college hockey.
"Right now, the 2010-11 team is my focus and I will continue to give everything I've got to this team and program," said Nichol. "We have 10 regular-season games left to get us read for the Peters Cup."
A nationwide search will begin this spring for a replacement with the intent of having someone in place by July 1st.