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NHL debut a blur, but Sound Tigers’ Dal Colle keeps working to improve

February 1, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — It finally came for Michael Dal Colle at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 13: His first NHL regular-season game.

“It’s what you dream of, that moment, since you’re a little kid,” Dal Colle said. “My family was able to make it to MSG. To debut at MSG was pretty special. It was amazing my family could come.”

Dal Colle played four games for the New York Islanders before returning last week to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who return from the all-star break Friday night at home against Springfield.

That first shift against the Rangers will be a memory forever, assuming he remembers any of it eventually.

“It was kind of a blur,” he said with a laugh. “I was obviously a little nervous.”

Dal Colle’s second pro season has had its ups and downs, from being scratched for a day in early November to his first call-up two months later. The fifth pick in the 2014 draft, he’s had to deal with the weight of expectations as he has developed.

“His growth (this year) has been more off the ice,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said, “his commitment to the weight room, getting stronger and faster, and I think that’s translated onto the ice.”

His vision on the power play helped get him four points in a 10-game span in December. He has 18 points in all for Bridgeport, and half of them came in his last 12 games before the Islanders called him up.

“He plays a pretty solid 200-foot game,” Thompson said. “He’s aware defensively. He’s got good sense. He makes the right play with the puck.”

Dal Colle comes down, he said, focused on keeping working. His own growth this year, he said, is biggest in “just day-to-day habits, learning to be a pro, taking care of my body in the gym.”

Dal Colle, Tanner Fritz and Ross Johnston were sent down to Bridgeport when the NHL reached its all-star break, two days before the AHL’s break began. They played in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Hershey.

The Islanders called up the other two Monday as the NHL break ended. The pace is faster up there, Dal Colle said he saw, and there’s not as much time and space to make a play.

“If he continues to work on his strength, as far as skating, and winning battles in the corner,” Thompson said, “the sky’s the limit.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio