As much as goaltender Collin Delia has meant to Merrimack on the ice this semester, he’s meant even more to the school and its surrounding community during the past three years.
So it should come as no surprise the composed junior recently was selected as one of five finalists for the 2017 Hockey Humanitarian Award, which is presented annually by the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation to college hockey’s “finest citizen” for leadership in community service.
The acknowledgement doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who labors alongside the 6-foot-2 netminder from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
“Collin is very down to earth,” Warriors captain Jared Kolquist said. “Anyone he can help, he will. He’s very selfless on and off the ice. He’s a great teammate.”
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy added, “I went to a high school where our motto was ‘Meant for Others,’ and that pretty much describes Collin. He is selfless within the locker room, more than supportive of our other goalies. He’s a very good, serious student, and a very caring person.”
Delia deflects the praise as easily has he would shots from the perimeter.
“All the credit has to go to our coaching staff because they recruit good people who are good students as well as good hockey players,” he said.
Though Delia is involved in several programs that aid others, it’s the personal relationships that mean the most to him – and where he is making the biggest impact.
The civil engineering major and two-time Hockey East All-Academic team member, who helped the Amarillo Bulls win the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup in 2013, has made a huge impact in the life of a young boy named Lucas and his family during his three years on campus.
“I worked with a friend of mine who works with Make A Wish [and] I was introduced to Lucas, who has SCIDS (abnormalities in the immune system) and was born without five organs – stomach, large and small intestine, liver and pancreas,” Delia said. “Doctors didn’t think he would live past two weeks. Here we are 4-5 years later. Last summer, he had transplants for all five organs. He had never been able to eat other than through a tube. I try to visit him as many times a month as I can.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg for Delia’s service, however. He’s also involved with CRU and Athletes in Action and serves on the executive board of Merrimack’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee.
“I am passionate about student-athletes’ welfare — I want their experiences to be more fulfilling,” Delia said. “We raised more than $1,000 to buy toys and deliver them to Boston Children’s Hospital. We’ve had lip sync contests for charity. It’s not only student-athlete focused. We want to break down barriers with fans, other students and our community. We need to see more from people have that influence.”
Delia’s influence on the ice has helped the Warriors climb into the thick of the Hockey East race after he returned from injury.
He tweaked a groin in the first minute of Merrimack’s second game of the season, and his first start, on Oct. 14 at Clarkson.
“I tried to keep playing but at some point, I figured it was best to cut my losses,” he said of the seven-minute stint. “It was like no injury I’ve ever experienced.”
That injury kept him out until late November, when he returned with a 33-save shutout of Wisconsin. After going in and out of the lineup, he has started the Warriors’ past seven games, helping them go 3-2-2 in the process while allowing just 11 goals in that span.
The keynote games were a home-and-home sweep of then-No. 1 Boston University in which he allowed one goal in each game. It was the program’s first sweep of the Terriers and only its third and fourth victories ever over a top-ranked opponent.
“When he’s healthy and gotten the nod, he’s been very good on the ice,” Dennehy said.
Hockey East took note.
Twice in that span Delia was selected its defensive player of the week, and he became the first Merrimack goalie since Rasmus Tirronen in Oct. 2014 to capture the conference’s goaltender of the month award. Overall, his .932 save percentage stood eighth nationally and his 2.01 GAA was 11th.
“He’s our catalyst for the back end,” Kolquist said. “Of late, he’s been the rock.
“He’s a dynamic goalie and he definitely brings a vocal element. As the same time, he doesn’t seem to get flustered. It’s a very interesting balancing act.”
The more Delia has taken on, the stronger he seems to play, and he has designs on enfolding more Merrimack athletes into community service.
“It’s important to use the resources given to us as college athletes to help others, spread the gratitude if you will,” Delia said. “Humility is important, too. College sports can be very egocentric.
“I wanted to break that barrier, reverse a precedent, let people know we’re not just jocks who play. Our platform is a great way to provide service, which is something I believe all of us are called to do as humans.”
Delia’s outward focus also was recognized in 2014, when he received the NAHL’s Community Service Award.
“I’m trying to organize a couple more team events,” he said. “In junior, it was in place. It was understood we contribute any way we can. It’s different in college with the school aspect. I think there’s always time.”
Count his captain, Kolquist, as a believer in that.
“He’s a leader in community service,” Kolquist said. “He often invites us. Whether it’s on campus or in the community with youth, it’s great for us to be able to give back and bond as a team while helping others.”
Entering the upcoming weekend, the Warriors sit tied for ninth in tightly packed Hockey East but also just six points out of third place.
Of course Delia’s on-ice achievements are secondary to what he has brought elsewhere.
“Collin is leaving an indelible mark on our program and our school,” Dennehy said.