Michael Colella is seventh in scoring in the National Collegiate Development Conference.
That’s good for any hockey player preparing for a NCAA Division 1 career. But it’s reallygood when you consider he hasn’t played an NCDC game since September.
Colella piled up eight goals and 18 points in just seven NCDC games for the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders. Immediately after the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout at the end of September, he was called up to a Tier-1 hockey team.
That call-up coincided with another big call that he’ll never forget, one coming from P.A.L. head coach Eric Conway.
“I started hearing from Colorado College the day I got called up. Eric called me and said ‘You’re going to Omaha, and Colorado College is going to contact you,” said Colella, a ‘99-born resident of Wenonah, N.J. “Their coaches called me the next day.”
Further conversations and visits followed, and on Halloween day, Colella committed to Colorado College for next season.
“To me, it was kind of a no-brainer, with the atmosphere and standard of hockey that they have out there,” said Colella.
He was also very impressed with the track records of the entire coaching staff. Head coach Mike Haviland, a son of New Jersey himself (from Middletown), helped the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years back in 2010, as an assistant coach.
Haviland has been head coach of Colorado College since 2014.
“Coach Haviland is a Stanley Cup champion, R.J. Enga is just an unbelievable guy,” Colella added. “[Along with] Leon Hayward and Logan Norris, the whole staff treated me like royalty right away and told me what they had to offer. They hold their academics high, and hockey-wise, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference has a lot of top schools. As I said, it was a no-brainer.”
The Division 1 commitment also makes perfect sense to P.A.L.’s Coach Conway.
“When I first saw him play last season [for Virtua Hockey 18U], I was walking to our locker room and saw this jersey blowing in the wind with the puck on his stick. I said to myself I have to stay and watch another shift and right then and there I decided I was going to offer him a tender with our club,” said Conway.
“Michael is your prototypical rink rat. He just loves the game. Before he left, we spent that night shooting pucks in our shooting stations for an hour,” said Conway.
The affection goes both ways, as Colella was extremely pleased with his short time with the Jr. Islanders.
“I actually was only with them for a few months, but I thought P.A.L. was unbelievable,” said Colella. “They treat it like a pro organization, like they were the actual New York Islanders. The amount of respect you bring in, that is what you earn. Eric Conway was awesome. He played a big role in this [commitment]. He wants guys to follow their dreams.”
Colella plays like a dream forward, not only racking up more than two points per game with the P.A.L., but he has also picked up three points in six Tier-1 games.
“Obviously, he has tremendous offensive instincts,” said Conway. “What stands out to me about him is his ability to shoot in stride off either foot. He’s extremely deceptive and stretches the ice with his ability to get behind the other team’s defensemen.”
“[Colorado College] liked how fast I can make plays, how I can score, I can pass, I can assist,” Colella added. “I have good hockey IQ, good vision on the ice, and the way I competed, I didn’t let size [5-feet-7-inches, 161 pounds] affect me. I made every shift count, and that’s what they saw.”
Colella will be joining former USPHL players Tyler Coffey and Ben Israel (New Jersey Hitmen), Trevor Gooch (Philadelphia Flyers Junior Hockey), Nicholas Olczyk (South Shore Kings) and Patrick Cozzi (Connecticut 16U) on the Colorado College roster.