Tory Dello recently got a little taste of what hockey will look like next year.
The Crystal Lake Central sophomore was tendered a contract by the USHL’s Tri-City Storm and played three games with the team in late December. Dello, a 15-year-old defenseman, was the first player born in 1997 to play in the USHL this season. He plans on returning to Kearney, Neb., later this season and then playing with the Storm full-time in the 2013-14 season.
“It was a really good experience,” Dello said. “I played pretty well. It was good, so I know what to expect next year. The speed of the game was the biggest thing. That, and playing against kids who are bigger and stronger.”
The USHL is considered the top junior hockey league in the U.S., one that takes players up to the age of 20. Dello will get two years of USHL play before he plans to attend Notre Dame, to which he committed a year ago.
“He thought this would help him prepare for Notre Dame,” said Marty Dello, Tory’s father. “He wanted to play against older kids. Guys who are bigger, faster and stronger will give him a chance to raise his game. He really had a chance to see the lifestyle while he was out there.”
Tory Dello (6-foot, 180 pounds) stayed with a host family who he will stay with next year, too. He will leave in August to attend high school and later start the season with the Storm. He will finish his current season with the Chicago Mission 16U team and could rejoin the Storm for the USHL playoffs, depending on how the seasons develop.
Dello was drafted in May by the Chicago Steel, who owned his draft rights until October. When he did not sign, he was available again to any USHL team. When the Storm played Cedar Rapids, Dello competed against an old friend, Jack Rowe, a forward from Cary who plays with the RoughRiders.
“This is a big-time get for us,” Storm general manager-coach Josh Hauge said during the news conference after Dello signed. “We had to go through the process, but this is a huge honor for [Dello] to be the first [1997-born player] to play in the league this season. We want to get guys in here who are good people first. He’s a solid shutdown defenseman with good offensive ability. We feel he could be an NHL draft pick in the future.”
Dello said leaving home will be easier because he has family not far from Kearney. His mother Lisa has a brother and his family, her mother and several cousins who are less than 2 hours away.
“I’m like a small-town kid,” Dello said. “I feel really comfortable and I love it here. I want to be the best player I can be when I step in at Notre Dame, and I think this is the place for me to be to do that.”