Colorado Rubber

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Arvada product Morelli succeeding between the pipes in NAHL with third-year Black Bears


Michael Morelli grew up in Arvada not realizing all that time goofing around with his older brother would lead to a promising hockey career.

After a solid first part of the season with the NAHL’s Maryland Black Bears, Morelli is working his way to an NCAA college opportunity.

“I’ve been a big Avs fan since I was five years old, and I’ve always loved going to the games when I can,” Morelli said. “I started playing hockey because my brother played and he needed someone to shoot on, even in the garage, so I was the one that was always just thrown in the net pretty much. My favorite goalie growing up was (former Avalanche goalie) Semyon Varlamov and he played a big role in me liking hockey from the get-go.”

A rookie with the Black Bears, Morelli has earned the respect of his head coach Clint Mylymok.

“Michael has a track record of success wherever he has played throughout his young career,” said Mylymok. “He is a great example of what you need in order to have success as a Junior A player. First on the ice, last to leave, competes for every puck in practice, he does it all. He is a very driven athlete and is also extremely talented. He gives us a chance to win, every time he starts, and gives our group a lot of confidence.”

Over the summer, Morelli took a chance on coming to Maryland, and it has paid off.

“I was in touch with the assistant GM, Ryan Kosecki, who I played for my 16U year at Meijer out in Michigan, so I ended up coming here to main camp and basically worked my way through main camp and got invited back to training camp,” said Morelli, a 2001 birth year. “That’s pretty much it.

“I talked a lot with Clint and just felt that this would be a great place to play. It’s a very nice city (Odenton) and I have a great billet family. Just great coaching, too. Everyone here was very welcoming, and the organization is very structured and organized. It was a fresh start, and I didn’t know anyone coming in to camp. I wanted to come here and try to make a good impression. It all worked out.”

As of Dec. 18, the Black Bears sit 8-4-2-1 and in the middle of a tight NAHL East Division.

“As a team, I think we’re improved a lot from the first couple weekends,” Morelli said. “We’re actually a pretty tight group despite not being able to see each other that much away from the rink.

“For me personally, it’s been good, and it’s been a good learning experience, even in practice playing with and learning from some really skilled players. It’s been really good so far.”

During his youth hockey career, Morelli played for the Arvada Hockey Association all the way to Bantams, then one year with the Colorado Evolution and two seasons with the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders before heading to Michigan.

He said his time with the RoughRiders was a turning point in his career.

Nils Satterstrom with the RoughRiders showed a lot of belief in me,” said Morelli. “He definitely helped build my confidence and taught me how to work pretty hard. I think he was always a very positive guy to look up to and be there when you need him. He was just a really good coach.”

Looking to the future, Morelli has realistic goals in mind.

“Being an NCAA D-I player is definitely my biggest goal right now,” Morelli said. “I think that’s a great goal to have. After that, everyone’s goal is to play in the NHL, so that’s my end goal for hockey, to play in the NHL and be a good player there.

“In life, it’s just having a good life and doing what you can to make other people’s lives better.”

In school, Morelli said he would aim to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“I’ve always been interested in business,” Morelli said. “So business, economics, business marketing, things like that. My dad does things in those fields, and those things have always interested me.”

Still, with COVID-19 not disappearing any time soon, Morelli said the pandemic has made him realize not to take anything for granted.

“Honestly, it makes it easier just taking it one shot at a time,” Morelli said. “With COVID, you never know when it might be your last game or practice, so you just have to go day by day and enjoy your time on the ice. It’s like that with life, too. Just live every day with purpose and have fun.”

Photo/Jim Harding

— Matt Mackinder

(Dec. 19, 2020)

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