By Matt Stefano
Welcome to week No. 2 of Thunderbirds Turnback Tuesday!
Last week in week one, we went all the back to the 2000-2001 season, when the Thunderbirds had defenceman Jeff Whitfield.
But in today’s edition, we’ve decided to look back at a former local forward that was here during the 2003-2004 & 2004-2005 seasons, before going on to have a four-year Ontario Hockey League career with the Sudbury Wolves.
In today’s week No. 2 edition of Thunderbirds Turnback Tuesday, we will feature Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Matt Dias.
Dias, who entered the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League as a 15 year old in 2003, scored 12 goals and set up 22 others in 45 regular season games during his rookie season in 2003-2004.
He then recorded 2 goals and 9 points in 12 games during the 2004 postseason, helping the Thunderbirds to the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League final.
Despite losing in the final that season to the North Bay Skyhawks, the Soo still got a berth into the Dudley Hewitt Cup Tournament due to the fact that North Bay was the host team.
In three games played at the 2004 Dudley Hewitt Cup Tournament, Dias recorded 2 penalty minutes as the Soo finished off the tournament with 1 win and 2 losses.
Following his rookie season with the Thunderbirds, Dias was then selected in the 4th round (65th overall) by the Sudbury Wolves in the 2004 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
That year (2004), the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also became the third player in franchise history to be drafted by an Ontario Hockey League team, following Jeff Whitfield (2001, Sarnia Sting) and Patrick Jarrett (2000, Mississauga IceDogs).
Dias then returned to the Thunderbirds for a second and final season in 2004-2005, where he led the club with 35 goals and finished third in team points with 63.
One of his career highlights would come on November 21st, 2004, when he scored five times and set up another in a 7-3 win over the North Bay Skyhawks at the North Bay Memorial Gardens.
His five-goal performance also tied the Thunderbirds record for most goals by a player in one game.
Dias then put up 15 points in 11 postseason games and was named a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League First Team All Star.
After spending two seasons with his hometown Soo Thunderbirds, Dias then began his first year in Ontario Hockey League with the Sudbury Wolves in the 2005-2006 season.
In his first season with the Wolves, the former Thunderbird forward scored 18 times and set up 16 others in 57 regular season contests.
During his second season in 2006-2007, Dias found the back of the net 22 times and set up 14 others in 67 regular season games, before helping the Wolves to the Ontario Hockey League final for just the second time in franchise history.
The Wolves, who were the underdog in the 2007 Ontario Hockey League final, lost to the Plymouth Whalers in six games.
In his third season with the Wolves in 2007-2008, Dias scored 19 times and set up 23 others in 66 regular season games, good for fourth in team scoring.
That season (2007-2008), the Wolves finished in last place in Ontario Hockey League’s twenty team loop.
In his fourth and final season with the Wolves in 2008-2009, Dias led the team in scoring with 31 goals and 66 points in 68 regular season games.