Years of hard work have started to pay off for Airdrie’s Aaron Dell.
The 25-year-old goaltender, who posted a 1.89 goals-against-average with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Worcester Sharks this season, recently signed a one-year, two-way $550,000 contract with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
“It’s been my dream since I was five years old,” he said.
Dell is now one of six netminders on the Shark’s list, a team that sat 11th in the tight Western Conference and six points out of a playoff spot as of March 30.
“There’s only so many spots, so when someone gets hurt, it’s a quick climb,” said the goaltender of the odds of seeing ice time with the Sharks.
For now, Dell said he is focused on the task at hand.
“We’re battling for a playoff spot here in Worcester, so I need to concentrate on that,” he said.
As of March 30, Worcester sat seventh in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, tied with the Portland Pirates with 80 points and a 37-23-4 record.
Dell grew up playing hockey with other local AHL pros Zach Boychuk and Dana Tyrell before taking different routes in bantam.
In the small world of hockey, Ty Rattie grew up playing with Dell’s younger brother.
“I was pretty small until around then,” said Dell, who grew eight inches when he was 15 years old.
Dell faced Tyrell and the Springfield Falcons last weekend for a 4-1 win.
The 6’, 200-pound goaltender is in his third professional season, following two years with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Calgary Canucks from 2007-2009, and Div. 1 college play with the University of North Dakota from 2009-2012.
Dell played with the Central Hockey League Allen Americans for the 2012-2013 season and part of 2013-2014.
He then played with the Utah Grizzlies in the East Coast Hockey League for the remainder of the 2013-2014 season, and played a majority of this season with Worcester, exchanging duties with Troy Grosenick.
“We get along really well with each other,” said Dell, adding he’s learned to play well consistently.
“If you don’t win, you don’t play. We have a competition there… we push each other and make each other better.”
Dell said his college years on a strong team, often facing only about 20 shots per night, were tough at first, but were one of the best things that happened to him.
“It makes you focus on making every single save,” he said. “You have to stay sharp through the times when you’re not getting any work.”
Now he’s coming of age.
Dell has had three shutouts for Worcester this year on 20- 38- and 24-shot nights and one more when he was sent down to Allen earlier this season.