Collin Delia started this hockey season playing for the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.
He’s now the No. 1 goalie for the Rockford IceHogs in the opening round of the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
And the road between those two points is filled with so many twists and turns that even Delia himself wasn’t sure he would’ve believed it was possible.
“I don’t know. I tend not to look too far ahead or expect anything,” he said. “But it does seem pretty far-fetched from where I began. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be playing here right now, especially when so many guys aren’t playing right now.”
In the last six months, Delia has played for three different teams in three different leagues, with highlights including his first NHL game (and first NHL win) and an incredible finish to the AHL’s regular season that helped the IceHogs soar up the standings and into the Calder Cup Playoffs.
And it’s still not over.
Just nine months ago, Delia wasn’t even a member of the Blackhawks organization, signing a two-year entry-level contract in late July after a second straight impressive performance at Chicago’s annual prospect camp. He’d spent the prior three seasons at Merrimack College before moving on to the aforementioned Indy Fuel to start the ECHL season. But Delia won just one of his 10 starts there, posting a 4.12 goals-against average and .887 save percentage.
Injuries to goaltenders all over the Chicago organization resulted in Delia moving to Rockford first and ultimately to the Blackhawks, where he helped guide the Hawks to a 6-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on March 29, a game where his performance was overshadowed by the Scott Foster saga.
Despite his frequent movement between teams, Delia said his new teammates at every stop have made the transitions easier.
“It’s definitely challenging,” he said. “But when you have such great players and character guys in the locker room, it makes it easy. They’re very welcoming, and that’s a reflection of the organization. They bring in quality guys from the top down. It was easy everywhere I was this year.”
His comfort level may be higher than ever right now. In two starts for the IceHogs this postseason, he’s stopped 59 of the 62 shots he’s faced, allowing just three goals.
Those postseason numbers weren’t a surprise to Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton, though, especially after Delia helped guide the IceHogs through a 15-4-2 stretch in the back half of the season.
“He’s just continued where he left off in the regular season,” Colliton said. “He had an excellent second half. We know what we’re going to get from him every night and that feels pretty good. He’s risen to the challenge here.”
The next challenge that awaits Delia and the rest of the IceHogs is finishing off the Wolves in their best-of-5 series. Rockford will get its first attempt at eliminating the Wolves on Thursday night at the Allstate Arena, but Delia pointed to past experiences in describing how difficult getting that series-clinching victory can be.
“It’s one of the hardest things to do, to end a team’s season,” Delia said. “We played a really hungry (University of New Hampshire) team and that was one of the most challenging things to do. We’ll take a deep breath (Sunday night) and enjoy it. But when we go to bed, it’s eliminated from our minds and we have to go back and earn it.”