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Waltham’s Kyle Thomas to start pro hockey career in S.C.

Thomas prepares for jump from Norwich to the ECHL

It’s turning out to be a small hockey world for Waltham resident Kyle Thomas, who graduated this spring from Norwich University and signed his first professional hockey contract last month with the South Carolina Stingrays.

The ECHL club, whose home rink is in North Charleston, S.C., have a working agreement with the Boston Bruins, who also sponsor the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins. The ECHL, which until 2002 was known as the East Coast Hockey League, is primarily a developmental circuit, one step below the AHL.

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“It’s a bonus that the Stingrays are affiliated with my hometown team, which makes turning pro even more exciting. It’s been a dream of mine to have this opportunity and I couldn’t be happier,” said Thomas, a 6-foot, 185-pound winger who will report to his new team in October.

“I just want to come in ready physically and try to make a good impression,” he added. “And to let them know I’m there to do whatever they need.”

Thomas has cousins who reside in Hilton Head, S.C., and Stingrays president Rob Concannon is a Boston native who played in the early 1990s at Providence College for Mike McShane, now head coach at Norwich.

Kyle’s father, Bill Thomas, played running back at Boston College and in the National Football League after being drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys in 1972.

Kyle Thomas scored 68 goals and added 58 assists in 114 career games at Norwich, and helped lead the Cadets to four consecutive NCAA Division 3 Frozen Four appearances, one national championship, four ECAC East regular-season titles, and three ECAC East postseason tournament titles.

“The ECHL is a great way to break in for D-3 players, a chance to take that first step in a very good league,’’ said McShane. “No one I have ever coached has faster, more explosive pull-away speed than Kyle. He also has the toughness to handle anything that comes his way. But it’s going to be an adjustment in being a solid, two-way player at the next level, and Kyle has improved in that regard. His shot and stickhandling skills are good but it’s his speed — and willingness to work hard in the corners — that will hopefully help him advance.”

Concannon, who also starred at Division 3 Salem State College and played six seasons with the Stingrays, said adjusting to a 72-game schedule, the long bus rides, maintaining a proper diet, and competing against legitimate NHL prospects will be a challenging experience for Thomas, but added, “We’ve seen D-3 players thrive in our league, and Kyle’s skating ability definitely impressed us.”

Thomas, who attended the NHL’s Minnesota Wild summer development camp in 2011 and again last year, is a right-handed shooter who played primarily at right wing in college.

He skated for coach John Maguire at Waltham High, and spent one season with the South Shore Kings junior-hockey squad prior to enrolling at Norwich.

Thomas helped seal the 2010 Division 3 championship for the Cadets by assisting on the winning goal in the final game, a 2-1, double-overtime victory over St. Norbert College, the alma mater of Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery.

“When we scout players for our league, we look for skills that can project to the AHL or NHL level that the player can build on, and Kyle is that kind of prospect because of his extraordinary speed,” said Carbery.

“That’s a good foundation for him. We’re also a much younger league than in the past, and so we can take more time to teach these players and hopefully promote them, and we’ll be sending reports to the Bruins on Kyle’s development.”

Thomas said Carbery’s expectations are “to do what I’ve done my entire career. Be a power forward, try and make plays and put the puck in the net.”

Joshi advances in Drive, Chip & Putt contest

Competing in the 7-9 age division, Keira Joshi of Ashland has advanced to regional qualifying for this year’s Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. She will be joining youngsters from across New England on Aug. 12 at the Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth.

Joshi finished first in her age group at Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy last month at local qualifying. Regional champions in each of the boys’ and girls’ divisions in four age categories from 7 to 15 will advance to the finals at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on April 6, the Sunday prior to the PGA’s Masters Tournament.

The free competition is held by the Masters Tournament Foundation, US Golf Association, and PGA of America.

Mount Ida College hires women’s tennis coach

Payum Payman, assistant chief development officer and community tennis coordinator for the Boston Lobsters of Mylan World Team Tennis, has been named head women’s coach at Mount Ida College in Newton.

A former teaching pro at Belmont Country Club and a Division 3 All-American at Wheaton College in Norton, Payman was assistant men’s and women’s coach at Brandeis University from 2009-11, and was the 2011 Intercollegiate Tennis Association NCAA Division 3 National Assistant Coach of the Year.

After graduating from Wheaton in 2007 he played professionally for two years.

Hudson High Hall of Fame seeks nominations

The Hudson High Athletic Hall of Fame committee is seeking nominations for candidates to be inducted in November. Nominees must have graduated at least 10 years ago.

Names are also being sought for candidates in the Veterans category, who graduated at least 50 years ago.

To make a nomination, contact Steve Smith by e-mail at srsonice@ yahoo.com , by mail at 70 Central St., Hudson, MA 01749, or by calling 978-568-1023.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.
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