DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth ice hockey program saw a second former player sign a professional contract this summer, as the Birmingham Bulls of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) inked Matt Baldino ’17 (Woburn, Mass.) to a PTO agreement earlier this month.
Baldino joins classmate and fellow 2016-17 captain Mike Kelly (Stoneham, Mass.) as the second Corsair in the class of 2017 to earn a fall tryout with an SPHL club. The Bulls received final approval from the league in April and will begin their inaugural SPHL season at the 5,000-seat Pelham Civic Complex Ice Arena in Pelham, Ala. in October.
“Matt was a big reason that we were able to win seventeen games this year,” said UMass Dartmouth head coach Erik Noack. “He was a vocal leader for us and kept the locker room on an even keel regardless of the situation on the ice. Matt scored a plenty of big goals for us in tight games and obviously has a high level of skill. What most people don't know is that he likes to play a hard-nosed brand of hockey as well. The program is very proud that Matt is getting this chance in Birmingham.”
“I first want to thank my friends and family for the unbelievable support they have given me throughout my career,” stated Baldino. “I especially want to thank my parents for the countless late nights and early mornings that they gave up so that I could play the game that I loved most. Without this support, I would not have made it through the rigors of NCAA hockey.”
“I also want to thank Jon Hutcheon of High End Hockey and Pat Gigante of Xcelerated Performance. I have been skating with Jon and working out with Pat for years now and they were essential in my development as a player and leader. Lastly I want to thank my teammates, Coach Ketts, and Coach Noack for pushing me to be better every day. My career at UMass Dartmouth has been a vital step in preparing me for professional hockey. Coach Noack and Coach Ketts have given me the guidance needed to be successful at the professional level and have helped me improve my game and gain confidence in my abilities. Most importantly, my time at UMass has shaped me into a person who will follow my dreams with perseverance and commitment.”
Baldino experienced his most productive season as a senior in 2016-17, ranking third on the UMass Dartmouth roster in goals (12) and assists (14) for 26 points. With six power play goals, he ranked second amongst the Corsairs and tied for 33rd nationally, while his two short-handed goals put him tied for 12th nationally. On Nov. 14, Baldino was named the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Player of the Week following his first career hat trick in a 6-2 victory over Westfield State on Nov. 12. In 96 collegiate games, including three seasons as a Corsair after transferring from Norwich, Baldino tallied 22 goals with 32 assists for 54 career points.
In Noack’s first season with the Corsairs, Baldino and Kelly captained a squad that went 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.