Las Vegas native, Thunderbirds standout Bonaldi takes next step, advances to NCAA D-III Nichols
Life in the Pacific Division of the USPHL Premier in its first two seasons of existence has been pretty sweet for Las Vegas Thunderbirds goaltender Anthony Bonaldi.
The lifelong resident of Las Vegas built on both his team success and his own accomplishments in the net – twice being named a season-ending USPHL Premier Pacific Division All-Star – to capture an NCAA Division III college commitment.
“The initial conversation I had with Nichols was about six months ago during the season, but with so much going on from both ends, our serious talks didn’t happen until the offseason,” said Bonaldi, who won 26 regular-season games over two seasons. “I really focus and dedicate myself to being a fast, aggressive goaltender who has high goalie-IQ and can help any team’s breakout with any kind of puck play. After talking to the coaches, it was an honor to see they also saw these attributes from my game over the course of the season.”
Bonaldi also saw a .911 career save percentage, all the more impressive for how high-scoring games typically are in the run-and-gun Pacific Division.
“I think the Pacific Division may have some of the most talented players in the league. In fact, there are many players who will be, or should be, playing at the Tier II level,” said Bonaldi. “With the USPHL Showcase being held in Las Vegas this year, I think it would be a great time for NCAA coaches to make their way out west, to find some of the hidden gems in the Pacific Division. The NHL is even showing there are many talented players coming up in the west, and I feel the USPHL is no different.”
Nichols College, located in the decidedly non-desert environment of Dudley, Mass., was attractive to Bonaldi for many reasons, including the school’s focus on entrepreneurship. Already on that path, Bonaldi is looking to take his own business to the next level through his education at Nichols.
“I currently own a goaltending-based clothing line called In The Cage, so I want to further my knowledge in that sector by studying business and entrepreneurship. The school’s focus on business is one of the many reasons I chose to attend Nichols college. When coach Mike Parnell called me and demonstrated how much time the school invests in that exact topic, I was immediately even further drawn to Nichols,” said Bonaldi. “Since a very young age, I was extremely interested in business and everything that comes with it. Seeing how dedicated Nichols is to teaching their students to become successful in whatever business endeavors they pursue immediately made it somewhere I would love to attend.
“After talking to Coach Parnell further about the education I will receive at Nichols as well as what a first-class organization their hockey team is, I knew I wanted to spend my college hockey career at Nichols. The rink, gym and every other facility stood out so much to me that I could only picture myself playing for the Bisons.”
Revving up the T-Birds
Bonaldi, a 2001-born player, thoroughly enjoyed playing for Las Vegas in the USPHL Premier, especially sharing the team with younger brother Nick (a 2003) in both years. Supporting Anthony’s position that many Pacific players “will be, or should be, playing at the Tier II level,” Nick has tendered with the Boston Advantage of the Tier II National Collegiate Development Conference for 2022-23. The Bonaldi family is through the roof with their advancement excitement this off-season, all thanks to the T-Birds and the Pacific Division.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the Las Vegas Thunderbirds. Being born and raised in Vegas and having the opportunity to play my junior hockey at home in front of the younger players in Vegas was something I took very seriously and wanted to live up to,” said Anthony. “The organization as a whole as well was second to none. The coaches, Cory Ward, Joe Sullivan, and Hamilton Whyte, were monumental for my development on and off the ice. The messages and meetings I received from them as part of the whole team or even individually are things that will shape the person I will become for the rest of my life.”
Anthony appreciated the warmth and family atmosphere of the T-Birds, as well as the on-ice development that took place every day of the season.
“Anything that any player needed whether it was personal, family related, hockey related, or even something simple as what we shot on the golf course the weekend before was taken and treated like a personal family matter and wholeheartedly was given genuine time and answers. I will also consider my teammates from the T-Birds to be my brothers for life,” he said. “We were treated like college or even professional athletes with everything, from our hotels and pre-game meals to facilities and buses we took for road trips. Again, I have nothing but great things to say about the T-Birds.
“The development I received while playing for the T-Birds was tremendous in my ability to move on. Every player is able to receive very personalized attention with everything from video to specialized workouts. Being in my hometown also helped a lot in being able to work with a number of goalie coaches who have known my game for some time and helped me in different areas. I think my reads and overall speed have improved the most by taking the jump into juniors. It’s not youth hockey anymore, so plays develop in ways that are much more recognizable so being able to read situations, whether it was from watching video or just repetition, was something that was a big focus of mine as well as from my coaches as something for me to develop.”
Every test was one that, in the grand scheme, Anthony Bonaldi aced, thus ensuring his NCAA college hockey future. The division’s coaches put their stamp of approval in nominating him twice as an All-Star, a successful venture both years.
“Honestly it was a tremendous honor. The amount of scoring in the Pacific Division made it that much more special. There were a large number of top scorers in the entire league in our division so being recognized as an All-Star goalie back-to-back seasons was very humbling. Also, the fact that the All-Stars are voted on by the coaches was truly the biggest honor,” he said. “Going into any game all I ever care about is winning, but to be seen as a top goalie by the coaches I competed against every night is what really made the recognition feel the best. It was also a great experience and an amazing honor for my brother, Nick Bonaldi, and me to be selected as All-Stars in the same season [2020-21]. The moment we saw the selections is something we will never forget.”
His future, however, demands all new levels of commitment and practice. Anthony will not rest on his laurels, pushing himself to be ready to again make a difference for his new team.
“I don’t think there’s necessarily specific things I will be working on but rather increasing the quality and speed in which I do everything,” he said. “I’ll be playing against older, more experienced players so everything I do will have to be that much sharper and faster. Obviously, there’s certain areas of my game I want to raise but that’s a goal for every off-season. I also feel I need to appreciate the things I do well that have gotten me to this point and continue to grow those parts of my game while also working on areas in which I might not be as proficient.”
Back home, Bonaldi spent time playing youth hockey for the Las Vegas Storm.
Photo/Las Vegas Thunderbirds
— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com
(July 11, 2022)