By Matt Stefano
On Saturday December 27th at Fifth-Third Field in Toledo, Ohio, marked the first ever ECHL outdoor hockey game between the Kalamazoo Wings and Toledo Walleye. Soo Thunderbirds grad Matt Caria scored the game winner and his fifth goal of the season at 16:37 into the third to give Kalamazoo a 2-1 win along with earning the game’s first star in front of 11,222 spectators.
Caria played one season with the Soo Thunderbirds during 2004-2005, scoring thirty one goals and seventy points through forty eight games and is tied for the franchise’s most goals in a playoff season with twelve in 2005, joining T-Birds all time goals leader Nick Minardi who had twelve in the 2009 post season along with Jeff Rainville in 2003. The former 2004 sixth round pick of the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, who was also a teammate of T-Birds assistant coach Ryan Maunu with the Thunderbirds during 2004-2005, went on to play four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League from 2005-2009, splitting time with the Toronto/Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, Soo Greyhounds and Plymouth Whalers. He was also crowned the NOJHL Rookie of the Year in 2005.
On November 16th, 2006, the Soo native set a new Toronto St. Michael’s Majors for most points in one game with eight (3 goals, 5 assists) in a 10-1 victory over the Brampton Battalion which passed Hounds head coach Sheldon Keefe, who had the previous team record with six back on December 20th, 1998. Caria, who is in his second season with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings, finished first in team scoring for them last season with fifty eight points in sixty six games along with being named to the ECHL all rookie team.
Caria becomes the first T-Bird grad to participate in an outdoor hockey game, joining former T-Birds Jake Muzzin (Los Angeles Kings/2014) and Tyler Kennedy (Pittsburgh Penguins/2008 & 2011).