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Hockey Humanitarian Award finalist is the real Delia

 

Merrimack College MHOC vs. UMasss Lowell at Tsongas Arena in Lowell, MA on December 9, 2016. Photo: Mike Gridley

For a player who has been a brick wall for much of the season’s second half, Merrimack College goaltender Collin Delia would prefer to break down walls.

The junior from Rancho Cucamonga has been one of the top goalies in Division I college hockey since he returned from a groin injury he suffered in the first minute of the first game of the season.

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More importantly, he has been selected 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.

“I went to a high school where our motto was ‘Meant for Others,’ and that pretty much describes Collin,” Warriors coach Mark Dennehy said. “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.”

Converse with Delia for a few minutes and it’s not hard to see why he was nominated for the HHA as a sophomore and became the first finalist for the award in Merrimack’s history this season.

“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.”

The civil engineering major and two-time All-Hockey East pick, who played for numerous clubs in California – the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, California Stars, California Titans, Inland Valley Wild and Orange County Hockey Club – 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 intenstine, 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 has been felt on his night job, too. His 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 allowed just 11 goals in seven games and helped the Warriors go 3-2-2 in the process.

Twice in that span, he was selected a Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week, and he became the first Merrimack goalie since Rasmus Tirronen in October 2014 to capture the conference’s Goaltender of the Month award. Overall, his .932 save percentage stood eighth nationally and his 2.01 goals-against average was tenth as of mid-February.

“When he’s healthy and gotten the nod, he’s been very good on the ice,” Dennehy said. “Collin is leaving an indelible mark on our program and our school.”

Photo/Merrimack Athletics

— Chris Bayee