Rookie netminder Collin Delia has had a whirlwind of a rookie season. He earned 17 regular-season wins for the Rockford IceHogs, recorded his first-career NHL victory, and now has begun his first Calder Cup Playoffs with back-to-back victories over the Central Division's top seeded Chicago Wolves.
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Delia currently leads all goalies in the playoffs with a .952 save percentage and is on the cusp of helping his team earn a first-round sweep.
Delia sat down with chicagoblackhawks.com to discuss his season thus far and shine light on the inspiration that led him to be selected as Rockford's Man of the Year.
How are you feeling following two big wins to open your first professional playoff series?
Feeling pretty good about myself and our team. We have done a lot to be here, put down deposits throughout the year, and the playoffs are where those sacrifices pay dividends. I am glad we are seeing that pay off right now, but it is important that we stay even keel and keep focused on the task at hand. We are in a good position to win and be successful, but we have to keep a steady mindset in each game.
How has preparation changed in Rockford as you have gone from the regular season, to now the playoffs?
If anything, there is extra attention given to recovery and rest. Almost everyone at this level works incredibly hard and it is a prerequisite to having success. Throughout the year we have done a lot to prepare and set ourselves up for these moments and we are constantly recommitting ourselves each day in order to achieve what we hope to.
What is it like continuing to adjust against the Wolves having faced them 14 times this year?
The habits protect us in those games. In these battles it will all be determined by the slightest mistake. It comes down to the work you do in practice and earlier in the season in those matchups, and it builds the foundation for moments like this past weekend. Pete Aubry (goalie coach) has been instrumental in instilling those habits as well as Jeremy Colliton and the rest of our staff.
How has the experience of coach Aubry and Jeff Glass helped you succeed thus far?
They bring a dose of composure with their experience and knowing what to expect in situations. Glass and I battle, and either of us could play in any game, so I have to show up every day and work hard to get my chance. Jeff is the hardest goalie partner that I have ever competed against. With that type of competition becoming the standard every day, come playoff time it's a great reminder that we don't take any days off. With Pete, we are watching video every day to see what I might face, what we expect from my game and then we even look at NHL goalies who have had great success and working to implement those fine, minute details.
What qualities do you see in this team that put you in a position to make a deep playoff run?
We as a whole group are not only dedicated to each other, but we are passionate on what we are doing and the goals we hope to attain. In my short time, I have seen that sometimes the focus a player has can be inward and geared towards reaching the next level as an individual. When you are developing that can get lost in translation. With us though, while we are focused on the next step we also understand that in order to get there we need to win as a team because it sets us up for success. That determination to win as a unit is what will help us do so.
What were your biggest takeaways from your time in the NHL?
The professionalism goes without saying. Those guys are there for a reason and they have and continue to set themselves apart from their counterparts to remain in this position. They also have a tireless work ethic that definitely made an impression on me. Whether it was Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat, they are on the ice for as long as possible, working on small details of their game. Being around Anton Forsberg and Corey Crawford also showed me the composure that is necessary. Even when they get beat, they have the mentality that they will do everything in their power to make sure they don't get beat again. Getting to learn in that environment and learning more of what to expect, instead of overcompensating, was important as well because it let me know that even when I am working in Rockford I am building habits that will translate.
What moment this season has stood out to you the most?
Hearing the National Anthem at the United Center in my first start was incredibly special. Also, when Jim Cornelison came to Rockford and sang the anthem at our first playoff game. Both were very distinct and meaningful experiences. When you were little you would watch the anthem from one perspective but now you are on the ice and 100 feet from the performer and its different. I loved it just as I was getting ready to play and to have that moment.
What has inspired your charity work that has led to you becoming Rockford's Man of the Year for the 2017-18 season?
Giving back is innate to me with how I grew up. My parents raised me in a way that I was never forced to do anything, it was just what we did, we gave back. When I went to juniors in Amarillo, Texas, and played for Dennis Williams those morals were reinforced. He taught me that we aren't just hockey players and that we have a role in the community and we are a part of it. It made us human and added value beyond the entertainment we provided. While I was there I got involved with Habitat for Humanity, through collecting money and volunteering with my teammates, and then at the end of the year we would bring a check to the organization and built a house. Then when I was at Merrimack College I had the same situation with my head coach. The school had serving and giving back as a foundational principle and wanted us to be part of the community. When I got to Rockford I realized I was in a similar position, as the organization is involved in numerous organizations such as: Anti-Bullying, Autism Awareness, etc. With that, the staff and the front office really go out of their way and do a lot of heavy lifting to help those in our community. At the end of the day, we are privileged to have that opportunity to help those in need and give those resources to others. I want to continue to serve and help in many ways and am thankful for the chance to do so.