Rockford IceHogs goaltender Collin Delia is an interesting hockey player. Aside from the fact that he plays the most isolated, demanding and scrutinized position in hockey, Delia owns a leather shop in Chicago, is an avid wood-worker and may have the calmest demeanor you will come across in the sport. On the ice, Delia has looked like a sure-fire piece of the future for the Blackhawks organization in net. Prior to Chicago signing Robin Lehner this summer, Delia was thought to be the backup to Corey Crawford. Now the goalie in the organization with the longest term remaining on his current contract, Delia knows his future goals, but they will only be determined by what he does in the present.
Delia overcoming rough beginning to 2019–20 season
The season did not start the way he had planned. Coming in as the theoretical third-in-line goaltender, Delia started the year with a poor 2–5–0 record, a goals against average over four and a sub-.900 save percentage. The IceHogs have carried three healthy goaltenders all season and after just a month and a half, Delia took a backseat to Kevin Lankinen and Matt Tomkins.
“I was frustrated because I want to play,” Delia said of his time off the ice in November. “I think I deserve to play. I work hard and prepare the right ways. Just wasn’t the decisions that were made and sometimes you don’t agree with them but you respect what the coaching staff says. Just use it to energize your efforts moving forward because if you come to the rink with a negative attitude, you’re only hurting your team and yourself.”
Over his last 10 appearances, Delia holds a 6–3–0 record with a 1.59 goals against average and a .946 save percentage. He also recorded his second career AHL shutout in his last start, making 34 saves against the Chicago Wolves on Jan. 19. It also was the second appearance of the year for Delia where he did not allow a goal, having made all 20 saves in relief of Lankinen on Dec. 31 against the Manitoba Moose.
“I’ve been practicing, playing and preparing the right way,” Delia said. “I had some things that were affecting me off the ice that I was able to get in check and that allowed me to do my job more effectively on the ice. That’s all it comes down to.”
One thing going for Delia this season is that he has been able to settle into one organization, so to say. Delia began his professional career with the Indy Fuel in the ECHL, but was recalled to the IceHogs near the midway point of the 2017–18 season. He would work his way into a regular role with the IceHogs that year and was a key player during their 2018 Calder Cup Playoff run. Last season, Delia moved up and down from the IceHogs to the Blackhawks throughout the year, ultimately finishing the year as one of the top netminders in the AHL.
“It allows me to be with the guys more,” Delia said. “You get more one-on-one time with specific guys and as a team as a whole. That’s important for a goalie. You get to know where certain guys like to play and where they go and you can find your spots. It’s a big part of reading the play and the guys around you.”
While he hasn’t moved around the organization, neither have Lankinen or Tomkins, leaving the IceHogs with a rare trio of healthy goalies on the roster for the entire season so far.
“I don’t think it’s ideal long-term,” Delia said of Rockford’s three-goalie system. “It’s hard for everybody to get enough reps. It’s interesting because I don’t think you’ll see a lot of teams do that. You just have to use it and make the most of each moment in practice and each game you get into.”
Eye on the future?
While Delia has not been needed in Chicago yet this year, given the quality of play and health of Crawford and Lehner, he is the only goaltender with the Blackhawks or IceHogs that has a contract beyond this season.
If his recent play is any indication, Delia may have played his way back into that No. 3 spot on the organizational depth chart. But as the NHL trade deadline approaches, and the Blackhawks have a number of questions to address regarding their future in net, Delia finds himself in a precarious position.
“I envision myself being there (in Chicago) permanently one day,” Delia said. “You notice things, but you don’t give too much attention to them because it’s not as important as being here and winning games here. I know when I’m called upon, I’ll use what I’ve worked on here and make sure they translate up there.You have to focus on having success here and now, because if you have it here, it’s easier to have it when you’re up there.”
Keeping his focus on the present with the IceHogs has paid off for Collin, his last outing was a shutout. Delia has been one of, if not the only bright spot on the ice for Rockford as they have just three wins since Dec. 21. Over that time, the IceHogs are averaging just 1.47 goals per game and have been shut out three times.
“We’re not going to make the playoffs with a .500 winning percentage,” Delia said. “We have to be higher than that and that’s my focus. Keep the puck out of the net so we can win some games. Being one-track minded for me is good because it allows the other guys to focus on their jobs if I’m doing my job.”
The IceHogs currently sit in sixth place in the Central Division with a 20–21–2 record. They are two points behind the Texas Stars and Grand Rapids Griffins, who are tied for fourth place and three points behind the Chicago Wolves in third place.
Delia ranks 16th in the AHL in goals against average (2.66), is tied for 11th in save percentage (.913) and is one of 39 players to record a shutout this season among goalies who have played over 780 minutes in net this season.
The Rockford IceHogs are back in action on Friday, as they take on the Milwaukee Admirals. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. CST at the Panther Arena in Milwaukee.
Following Friday’s contest, the teams will run it back on Saturday back in Rockford. Puck drop on Saturday is set for 6 p.m. CST at the BMO Harris Bank Center. It will be the final game for the IceHogs before the AHL All Star break.
The IceHogs hold a 1–3–1 record against the league-leading Admirals this season and face Milwaukee three times over their next four games.