DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Former University of Massachusetts Dartmouth hockey captain Mike Kelly (Stoneham, Mass.) signed with the Evansville Thunderbolts of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) earlier this month, and is set to continue his career on the ice this coming fall.
The Evansville, Indiana-based club inked Kelly to a PTO agreement, sealing his invitation to training camp and the opportunity to earn a spot on Oct. 21’s opening night roster. The Thunderbolts completed their inaugural SPHL season in April after relocating from Bloomington, Ind. prior to 2016-17, and compete in the state-of-the-art, 11,000-seat Ford Center.
“I know I speak for the whole coaching staff when I say we are very excited for Mike to have signed a professional contract with Evansville,” said UMass Dartmouth head ice hockey coach Erik Noack. “He was a great captain for us, missing six games and still leading our team in goals this year. Mike has good speed, a great shot and he plays a heavy game. I think that should translate nicely at the pro level.”
“I would like to thank Coach Noack and Coach Ketts for everything they have done for me. They stuck their necks out for me and helped me achieve the goal I set when I first started to play the game,” said Kelly. “I also couldn't have done it without my teammates, who pushed me day in and day out, and my family. From my two brothers to my mother and father, they have given me the opportunity to live out every young kid’s dream of getting the chance to play professional hockey and I can't thank them enough.”
“Thank you to Coach Leblanc and Coach Ftorek at Hebron Academy for helping me start my journey into college and beyond. I’d also like to thank Coach John Rolli for giving me an opportunity at UMass Dartmouth upon transferring.”
“UMass Dartmouth has really prepared me for the next level. My coaches have helped me to get a feel for what's next, and they have been behind me from day one and pushed me to get better every day. I am glad for my time at UMass Dartmouth and I wouldn't change it for anything.”
Kelly began his Corsair career prior to the 2014-15 season after transferring from Norwich, and experienced his most prolific season as a senior. He was named to the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Second Team at forward, leading the Corsairs in goals (15) and ranking second in points (29) and third in assists (14). Nationally, he sat amongst the Division III leaders in four categories, including short-handed goals (3rd, 4), goals per game (9th, 0.75), points per game (17th, 1.45) and game-winning goals (27th, 3). Kelly’s senior campaign included his first career hat trick, scored on Feb. 16 in the Corsairs’ first road victory over Salem State since 2013. For his efforts, he was named the MASCAC Player of the Week on Feb. 20. He closes his three-year UMass Dartmouth career with 34 goals and 52 assists for 86 points.
In Noack’s first season with the Corsairs, Kelly captained a squad that finished 17-9-0 for the program’s highest win total since 2010-11. With a 12-6-0 slate in MASCAC competition, the Corsairs secured the No. 3 seed for the conference tournament before placing four on the All-Conference lists. UMass Dartmouth paced Division III with 13 short-handed goals, two more than the next best total, and Noack was named the 2017 MASCAC Coach of the Year.