After leading the Toledo Storm to its deepest run in the ECHL playoffs in nearly a decade, coach Nick Vitucci said his mission remains incomplete.
Vitucci, the mastermind behind the Storm's charge to the American Conference finals last season, signed a contract extension yesterday. He also will continue to serve as the team's director of player personnel in a deal that will keep him in Toledo for two more years.
"I'm very excited about it," Vitucci said. "It gives me job security and my family stability. It's also an opportunity to continue what we've started. I'm working for an organization that wants to win and will give me whatever is possible to continue our success. Winning a championship is without a doubt the goal."
Vitucci has served as the team's coach and recruiter since Jan. 26, 2004, and has compiled a record of 101-74-18 during the regular season. The 39-year-old has led the Storm to back-to-back Kelly Cup playoff appearances and is 8-9 in the playoffs.
The former Storm goaltender took over for Steve Harrison during the 2003-04 season and finished with a 14-27-8 record. He returned the next season and earned ECHL coach of the year honors after guiding the team to a 41-26-5 record.
Storm president Barry Soskin said Vitucci is not only a terrific coach and professional, but also is "the right fit for this team and the community of Toledo."
"He cares for this organization and community," Soskin said. "Nick has guided this team to an increase in wins over each of his seasons, and he has five championships to his credit. He is well respected not only in the ECHL, but also within the Detroit Red Wings organization."
Last season, the Storm won the North Division title with a 46-21-5 record and also captured a divisional postseason title with wins over Johnstown and Wheeling. The Storm swept the Chiefs in the semifinals and beat the Nailers in five games in the division finals. Gwinnett then ended Toledo's season, taking the American Conference final 4-1.
It was the first time since 1998 and 1999 that a Toledo team had made back-to-back playoff appearances.
"There is no better feeling than winning a championship," Vittuci said. "You set out in early October to achieve a goal and when you achieve it in May, it's something special. I've done it five times and I'd love to bring one of those to Toledo."
Vitucci was a goaltender for the Storm from 1993-95 and has won five ECHL championships, including one in Toledo. He won four as a player (1989, 1990, 1994 and 1996) and one as an assistant coach (2002).
Vitucci has a multitude of ECHL career goaltender records to his credit, including wins (265), 20-win seasons (7) and consecutive 30-win seasons (2). He was named to the ECHL 15th anniversary team in 2003, and holds the ECHL postseason goaltender records for total games (80) and wins (43). He also holds numerous Storm records, including wins (77), goals against (399) and saves (3934).
Vitucci said holding a position in professional hockey usually means a lot of moving around, so staying in Toledo for another year was very appealing.
Vitucci and his wife, Dawn, and son, Keegan, 6, recently bought a home in West Toledo.
"This is like a home away from home," said Vitucci, who is from Welland, Ont.
"I played here for three years and I'm going into my fourth season. I met my wife here and we were married here. I have great friendships and relationships here."
Vitucci said he would like to bring back at least half of the players from last year's team. He already has brought back fan favorite Nick Parillo.
"Recruiting is the big part of what I'm doing right now," Vitucci said. "I use my connections throughout hockey to try to get the right make up. I want to find the right mix of players to continue the tradition we built.
"We want to maintain that good chemistry and bring in good, tough hockey players. At this point on July 18, I am very excited about how this team is shaping."
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