A chance encounter at Ice Works piqued Matt Chandik’s interest in the vacant boys hockey head coaching position at Strath Haven High School. Chandik was working as a scorekeeper for youth playoff games when he ran into Ridley head coach — and Ice Works rink manager — Stephane Charbonneau.
“He said, ‘Hey, did you hear the Haven job is open?’” remembers Chandik. “It was the first time I heard of it.
“I sent my coaching philosophy to (Strath Haven Hockey Board Member) Mike Irey and went from there.”
Earlier this week, Chandik, a former Daily Times staff writer, officially accepted the Panthers position.
In Chandik, Strath Haven gains a coach with a winning pedigree. A 2005 graduate of Parkland High School, Chandik led his alma mater to a record of 36-3-4 the last two seasons. The Trojans won the Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League both years.
For all the success, however, Chandik sought a new challenge.
“It’s been a good run,” he says. “At Parkland, and I love winning, a lot of the nights it wouldn’t be much of a question as to who would win the game.”
The competitiveness of his new conference appealed to him.
“I’d rather win 4-0 than 9-3,” Chandik says. “That won’t be happening (in the Central League). I think that’s great.”
Geography also played a role. Chandik relished the chance to coach at his alma mater, but the long drive to Allentown from his Ridley Township residence weighed on him. He wanted to work somewhere closer to home.
At the same time, friends within the league helped recruit him as well. Charbonneau, who shares a Quebecois heritage with Chandik, a Montreal native, recommended his longtime acquaintance to the Haven board. Chandik also received a nudge from John Povey, head coach of Haverford High and a friend from their days at West Chester University.
“I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I’d love to have you here,” says Chandik of Povey’s pitch. “He might just want to beat me.”
Turning around the Strath Haven program won’t be easy. After starting out the season 4-2 with impressive wins over Garnet Valley and Lower Merion, the Panthers finished just 8-10 overall and 5-10 in the Central League to miss the playoffs. Strath Haven failed to garner an invite to the Flyers Cup.
Still, there’s plenty of talent returning. Rising senior Ryan Lowe led the Panthers with 20 goals and 39 points in 2016. He’ll likely play on the top line alongside Mike Irey, Jr., who contributed 24 points as a freshman. Defenseman Tony Koskinen, another rising senior, was also a consistent producer, scoring 17 points in 17 games.
A self proclaimed “internet fiend” when it comes to high school, Chandik has already heavily researched his roster. He plans to bring a disciplined style to the group and run practices with plenty of puck touches.
“A lot of the stuff is simple,” Chandik says. “If you work hard, there’s a good chance I can find a role for you.”