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Blackhawks goalie Collin Delia stays steady in pursuit of starting job

Collin Delia is back at it tonight against the Oilers. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It was an epic milestone for Collin Delia. Someone should’ve told him.

The Blackhawks called him up from Rockford last week and quickly threw him in net against the Avalanche, the same team that buried him in his last NHL appearance, and he responded brilliantly.

Delia stopped 35 of 36 shots Dec. 21 in his season debut to earn the first complete-game victory of his young career, and he barely reacted to it. He unleashed a roar when time expired, but his mind was already on the next task before he skated off the ice.

“Ultimately, I know there’s more work to do,” he said. “There’s more at stake for me. There’s a higher goal for me. I want to be an every-day player, and I know that one performance doesn’t dictate who you’re going to be.

“I was happy leaving the rink that night, but at the same time, I wasn’t completely satisfied with a few facets of my game. I was probably over it by the time I went to bed.”

Maybe even before that. Delia settled his euphoria enough to fall asleep on the flight home from Denver, resuming the balance that keeps him stable in the volatile environment of hockey. Emotions are just clutter. It’s how he handles everything, and it’s probably how he has gotten this far.

Delia was back in net Thursday against the Wild and looked just as good. He made 46 saves on 48 shots as the Hawks sailed to a 5-2 victory and continued their hot streak.

With coach Jeremy Colliton making it an open competition between Delia and Cam Ward — “He’ll get what he earns,” he said of Delia’s playing time — while Corey Crawford recovers from a concussion, Delia seems like the obvious choice to start Saturday at Colorado because of how he played against the Wild.

He didn’t celebrate much after either game, turning urgently from the win over Minnesota to Friday’s practice.

“His mentality seems to not be too affected by results, one way or the other,” Colliton said. “But he’s built that over time. I think last year was a really good experience for him to go through.

“It was hard at times. He’s in the ECHL, and even there, the results weren’t that good. But he battled through and ended up taking over in Rockford, and I think that built some mental toughness.”

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Delia, 24, mostly split time between the affiliates in Indianapolis and Rockford before a late-season call-up. He gave up seven goals on 63 shots in two games with the Hawks.

Colliton, who coached him with the IceHogs before replacing Joel Quenneville on Nov. 6, sees him making significant strides. Delia moves well in the crease and has become more consistent on routine saves that aren’t always routine for young goalies.

Merging that improvement with an already-strong mental game has Delia off to a great start in his return to the Hawks.

“I’ve come a long way since last year, but the one consistent thing I have is my ability to have some instant closure with myself,” he said Friday. “I’ve gotta be ready to go the next day. Even like last night, it was obviously a big win, but we have practice today, so you’ve gotta earn it all over again.”

He tries to keep that steadiness from play to play, too, not wanting to get pulled into the intensity. He’s more likely to shrug than be demonstrative, and that’s part personality, part strategy.

“You stop their attempt, and they’re getting worked up, then they see that you’re not getting worked up,” Delia said. “You’re not putting off the same energy that they are. It really kills a lot of people’s momentum. So when I receive that energy and channel it and use it for my benefit, in the long run, it really takes a toll on the opponents.”