Eastern Hockey League – Next Edition of Q and Anthony: Colin Bella Of The Connecticut RoughRiders

Anthony DiPaolo
Anthony DiPaolo
Anthony Di Paolo has been working in various levels of hockey over the last five years, ranging from juniors to the pros. Di Paolo spent four seasons as the Communications Director and play-by-play announcer for the New Jersey Titans of the North American Hockey League (2016-2020), and is entering his fifth season in a similar role with the New Jersey 87’s of the Eastern Hockey League. Graduating from Seton Hall University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, the New Jersey native covered Division I athletics for his school’s radio station, WSOU, and spent two years writing for the Fischler Report, a newsletter run by U.S. Hockey Hall-of-Fame inductee Stan Fischler.

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When Colin Bella scored the opening goal in a game against the Railers Jr. Hockey Club in the Newington showcase, he became the all-time leading scorer for the Connecticut RoughRiders with 56 career goals.

Adding to the already impressive feat, the player Colin surpassed was none other than his older brother AJ, who scored 55 goals in two seasons with the RoughRiders. Currently in his third season with Connecticut, Colin is 10th all-time with 128 points in the EHL and sixth all-time with 59 goals.

In this edition of Q and Anthony, Colin talks about breaking the team record, growing up with AJ and eventually playing together on the RoughRiders, as well as the prospect of breaking the EHL goals record.

Colin Bella
CT RoughRiders

Anthony DiPaolo: When you scored that goal against the Railers, were you aware of breaking the RoughRiders record?

Colin Bella: At the time I was not aware of it, actually. I didn’t know about the RoughRider one.

AD: What about AJ’s reaction after the game? 

CB: He was just talking about how I still haven’t hit 40 goals. That’s all he’s talking about, is me catching his single season record of 40 goals, that’s the one that we’re betting so I’ve got to catch that.

AD: You two have a little bet going on for this season?

CB: Yeah, we don’t have too much money between us, but we’re just betting a cup of coffee from Donut Delight down the road, who can get more goals in their age-out season. AJ put up 40 in the 2019-2020 season and I have 17 so far, so I need to get to 41 in order to beat his single season record.

AD: I want to talk a little more about your relationship with AJ. You’re only two years apart, do have any good memories of playing against him back home, or playing together on a team before the RoughRiders?

CB: We used to play knee hockey a lot in the playroom, and one time he just hit me in the face with a stick and I had to get stiches, I was gushing blood right around my eye. In the summers we play on a team together and it’s always a competition to see who would get more points. He doesn’t like to pass the puck a lot, he just likes to shoot so I don’t get to touch the puck too much when I’m playing with him. Because of that I just try to stay on a different line.

AD: You and AJ probably have the best shots I’ve seen in the EHL. What’s the family secret between the two of you?

CB: I guess when we were younger, our mom would always make us go out on the driveway and shoot pucks, so she was the one who really got us into it. And like I said with AJ, he’s not a big passer, he just shoots. So eventually something’s going to go in.

AD: Speaking from experience, two brothers playing hockey usually results in broken windows, car mirrors or garage doors. Any damages caused by you or AJ back home?

CB: There was a window in the back that got shattered, but it wasn’t because we shot it. When we would play knee hockey inside, we played full contact and we hit our little brother into the window and it shattered.

AD: Wait, there’s a third Bella brother?

CB: Yeah, our little brother Jake. He doesn’t play hockey, he plays lacrosse. But we made him play hockey with us when we were younger.

AD: You and AJ played together on the RoughRiders in the 2019-20 season, how would you describe that season playing alongside your older brother?

CB: It was a really good experience, especially because there was no Covid or anything, it was a just a regular season. That year was also a competition, at the beginning of the year I had a few more points than him. But once he started playing with Will Christensen and Tao Ishizuka, and then they started putting up a lot of points, that’s when he passed me. I think we had a bet then too, it was like $20 to see who would have more points. I was pretty confident I was going to lose but just out of pride I had to take the bet. 

AD: Seeing that AJ is playing in Manhattanville right now, is he giving you any advice about getting ready for the Division III level?

CB: He was just talking about the speed being a little faster and a lot more physical, so you’ve got to be ready for that. I’ve gone to a bunch of his games and every time you have the puck someone is getting hit, so you have to prepare for that.

AD: You played in the EHL college showdown and scored a goal against Curry College. Does that give you confidence knowing you can compete at the Division III level?

CB: It was nice to be able to score in that game, especially since Tao Ishizuka was on Curry. It’s nice to play against someone like that who was on the RoughRiders, and it does give you a little more confidence before going to college, knowing that you can play there. Hopefully in the next month or so I will be able to land a commitment too.

AD: Right now you’re at 59 career goals, and the EHL record is held by Bryce Witman at 76. You have 21 more regular season games to get 17 goals to tie it and 18 to pass it. Do you think you have another 18 goals in you this season?

CB: I hope so, I’m not going to try and focus on that too much, just focus more on winning with our team. If we do pick up some wins, hopefully I’ll have some goals in there too, so we’ll see what happens.

AD: Playing in the RoughRiders organization, you and AJ have left such an incredible mark with the team. What do you have to say about the RoughRiders and your growth as a hockey player with the organization?

CB: The RoughRiders play out of SoNo Ice House which is 10 minutes from me, so I’ve always been in that rink growing up, so it’s a great spot. Playing for Eric and Brownie, they don’t focus as much on bringing in a ton of players, trying to trade everybody. It’s all about development and getting players to the next level. We focus a lot on skating, they’ve been really good to me and they’re just great coaches all around.

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