Atlantic Hockey Showcase Games: Niagara has an Uncommon chance against UND

Photo Credit: Niagara University Athletics

Niagara University Hockey Head Coach Jason Lammers talked to us about the long term goals for his program. They are pretty straight forward. The goal of Lammers’ group is to be “regionally dominant and nationally prominent.” Looking back at the pandemic-marred season they endured, the Purple Eagles battled through every obstacle they faced, and took AIC to the brink in the semifinals of their postseason tournament, making AIC score two late goals to earn the win. That was after defeating Western Pod Champion, Robert Morris, in a three game series where the first two featured two overtimes, and the finale included a shutout for all but the last 12 seconds of the game.

Lammers has a lot of returners coming back from that group, including goaltender Chad Veltri. He took over the net and etched his place in Purple Eagles’ history for his work against Robert Morris alone.

This year, Lammers group arguably has one of the toughest non conference schedules in the country, combined with having to face the always formidable AIC. The Purple Eagles face the Fighting Hawks on the road to open up the season, follow that up with Penn State, Michigan, and Notre Dame, all on the road.

Because of this interesting schedule, Lammers group will face more teams from the Fargo Regional (2021) than any team in that regional could have done.

Let’s move on to the moment.

Lammers and his team will be indirectly competing with their rivals, Canisius, in terms of program stature. A couple of years ago, a much younger group of Golden Griffins was lead to open their season against the Fighting Hawks. It did not go well as the team was swept out of the building despite playing with the same resolve Lammers is used to seeing them play with.

Why are these Purple Eagles different?

Well, Veltri is an established netminder in college hockey. Large’s group had two goalies competing for playing time. The Purple Eagles have a back end that may not out skate UND’s, but one that can check with them on every night. The Purple Eagles win games playing strong in the corners, and generating quick looks the other way. Veltri does great work in net, and up front he has a player with a familiarity to the region helping him. Carter Randklev will be coming back to open his sophomore season where many thought he would be, at Ralph Engelstad Arena, but playing for the opposition. When Randklev originally committed to UND a few years ago, it was the talk of the region as the Moorhead Spud would be heading north.

After coming back stronger after a lower body injury, Lammers gave him a chance and it paid off right away. He put up five points in 13 games, and added top end speed to the lineup. Between Randklev, Ludwig Stenlund, and Walker Sommer, the Purple Eagles have multiple forwards, amongst several others who will bring speed and energy with them to compliment their hard checking style.

In addition to all of this, while Lammers will have new players in his lineup, he will be working with one transfer and some rookies. UND will be working with a much more fluid roster full of new faces looking to find their way at the pressure cooker of an environment that playing as a Fighting Hawk naturally brings.

The defense of the Purple Eagles is what will set the tone for them this night, and throughout their season. Chris Harpur, and Jack Zielinski will lead this team as fifth year seniors, and set the pace for the group. For them to earn points against UND, these two will have to play a big role in limiting quality shot chances. Across their past three seasons, UND has done its best not because of having the best in terms of high percentage shooters, but because they know how to put home rebounds and earn high danger chances. The Purple Eagles have to, in basketball terms, keep the Fighting Hawks outside of the key (slot), and win rebounds (loose pucks) to have a chance.

It is uncommon to want a schedule with this much tests, but then again, being Uncommon, and working to help others in the spirit of service, as is a central part of their school, bond together during a pandemic, fight through adversity, and nearly defeat your league’s champion are all uncommon things most of this group did together last season. If you are looking for a top end player that will run roughshod over the Fighting Hawks, you will not find that on Niagara’s group. If you are looking for a group of committed players that, if they play their game can make life much tougher than the hyper partisan crowd would like to see, well, Niagara has a roster full of them, and a coaching staff ready for the challenge.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Atlantic Hockey Non Conference Showcase Games: Army West Point

Photo Credit Army West Point Athletics

Like AIC, Army West Point, and the other eight Atlantic Hockey members have a unique chance this season to showcase their conference with some key non conference wins, and with the increased availability of those games, every member has a bigger chance to do just that. We are continuing our look at big series for each team, moving to Brian Riley’s Army West Point group.

Army West Point

Key Opponent: Wisconsin

The same weekend the Black Knights Football team will look to head to Madison and earn a hard fought win that not many were exxpecting, Riley’s group gets to do the exact sme thing.

This year, the Black Knights will head into Madison with three different options in net to replace All American, and now current Iowa Wild netminder, Trevin Kozlowski. Whoever wins that competition will face a Badgers team not returning Cole Caufield, but one replete with NHL draft picks and a lot of players that have not been overlooked nearly as much as those that play for Brian Riley

Of course, Bilek and the forwards are this team’s strength on paper coming into the season. Another thing they all bring is speed, Army Hockey always seemed to be the faster team down the stretch save for a few brief stretches in their semifinal loss to Canisius. That will be tested on the biggest stage against the speed and power of the Badgers.

For Riley’s group, their job will be to get ahead of Wisconsin on the road. Easier said than done, but taking the Kohl Center crowd out of the game will go a long way to determining their fate on the weekend. What Army has going into this series, on paper at least, is a more physical defense returning with a better ability to disrupt plays and keep their opposition to the perimeter .Even their best goal scorer, Bilek, is one of their better defensive forwards, who rarely makes a goal-conceding mistake in the many minutes he plays.

If you look at how Bemidji State earned their win in the first round over Wisconsin last March, that is the effort it will take against the Badgers. While their personel will be a little different, their top end skill will still be there, as will their ability to put up goals in bunches. Brian Riley often talks about how his sport, the men he leads, are a part of a collective leadership lab. For the veterans he leads, it is a chance to show resilience after the way last season ended. For his basic cadets, and underclassmen, it is a chance to make their own mark on this program right away, and begin a new tradition. In the non conference landscape for Atlantic Hockey, Army has a chance to make the college hockey world pay attention to them early on, as they will have a Hobey Baker Candidate in Colin Bilek, and his team facing the Badgers on a national stage.

October cannot come fast enough.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Atlantic Hockey Non Conference Showcase Games:AIC

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

This season, the Atlantic Hockey Association is going forward with 10 members, due to the choice of the administration of Robert Morris to not sponsor their men’s team. That decision has since changed, pending results of fundraising outcomes relative to the team, but the 10 remaining members of the conference decided to move forward themselves, and add some extra non conference games for each member school this year. We hope Robert Morris Hockey comes back, and this article is written in the present of the Colonials not being a part of Atlantic Hockey. If or when that changes, we will revise this content plan as needed to account for that.

With that in mind, here is one game or series per team against one opponent that creates the best chance for that member to put themselves, and this often overlooked conference on the map. We have nine more articles to write for the other members of this superb conference.

American International College

UMASS Amherst

Well, this home and home series is a battle of champions. The reigning Atlantic Hockey Champions take on the National Champions in a fierce October home and home fracas. What Eric Lang’s team has going for him is the benefit of veterans returning. The Yellow Jackets return most of their roster, and bring in high end transfers, Chris Van-Os Shaw, and Brian Rigali to make up for some of the scoring lost by the departure of Tobias Fladeby.

In terms of what this series means to AIC, it sets the tone for their season. If Lang’s group can learn from their season opener against Providence, and win their homecoming game against the National Champions, they set themselves up well for the future. What stood out about Lang’s group that finished the season was their remarkable consistency. In a very short time, Lang has taken a school that not enough people knew about and put them on the map of college hockey, and gotten them known internationally, for the efforts of his group. If you look at this group, there only two loses in the second half of the last campaign to Army West Point, a team one bounce away from facing the Yellow Jacket

How has he done that? By building the right culture, of good people, and of a team that buys in to one another. That has lead to players recruiting players, like how Julius Janhonen heard more about AIC. In addition, that culture, this team, allows them to overcome adversity, and embrace opportunity well. They will be facing the National Champions, and one of their biggest rivals with a chance to put their group up in the Pairwise, put the rest of this sport on notice to their potential, and do all of this with a veteran roster.

Eric Lang and his staff embrace a challenge. Outside of their conference, the Minutemen are their biggest impediment to earning an at large bid. His group will be ready to face the champs, full of a roster of newer players, and talent in bunches. The puck drops in the middle of October on this momentous series. Lang will have his group of good humans ready to compete.

Look for nine more of these articles highlighting the value of nine more non conference series.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

“We wanted to take our disappointment and sadness and make something of it.” Logan Bittle on the drive to save Robert Morris Hockey

Pittsburgh College Hockey Foundation and Rombert Morris Hockey Leader, Logan Bittle is optimistic.

Why?

Well, as he said of their efforts to help save the Colonials’ Hockey Programs

“We’re a lot better off than we were a week an a half a go.“

On why he started the foundation designed to help save Colonials College Hockey, he said ” we wanted to take our disappointment and sadness (around the initial way the programs were cut) and make something of it.

But, he cautioned of the early commitments “ it’s significant but we still need more significant money.”

This entire foundation stated out of an innate desire for people to help. Bittle was getting pledges to his email account. This model was not sustainable, and required some quick adjustments. As he said of why he started the foundation,” “ one of the main reasons we stated this foundation was the people we’ve met along the way.“

The goal is to help all those involved in working with saving Colonials Hockey. So far, the group is getting pledges from a wide variety of folks, both in a private, and business capacity, and as things get finalized, Bittle is excited to share more news when he can. While it is unclear what the official number of funds raised is, it is also clear that his group has put a big dent in that number.

His foundation has one week left to help raise enough funds to show long term viability for both teams to justify reinstatement. For the Colonials to be back on the ice, Bittle’s group, in conjunction with the university need to show not a specific number, but a sense of progress towards seven million dollars raised in total over the next five years.

While the hard number needed by the administration is vague, their willingness to help Bittle’s group is not, and very much real according to Bittle. Logically it then follows, if the support was not concrete it was not, this last-chance offering by the school would not have happened.

As to the logistics of running the teams next year, he left that up to the hockey staff left with each program. Bittle praised the efforts of Robert Morris in working together with them to be a part of a solution. On the support the teams have seen, Bittle said of the RMU community that, “it’s resilient and willing to help it’s own.“

As this effort progresses, we hope to have more on the hockey plans of the Colonials, should this drive hopefully get the back on the ice.

 

Pledge Form: Here is a link (click the word “link” to the pledge form Bittle’s Foundation is using to gather one time, and multi year contributions. The university needs to see long term viability financially for both programs. While more can be discussed on the hockey ramifications should reinnstatement happen, it is a reality that fundraising, for these teams, for the next week, is all that matters. If you are able to, please consider helping give two programs with a legacy of success at preparing men and women for life both on and off the rink a chance to continue that positive legacy moving forward.

Generals add three in NAHL Draft: Read More

Today, the Northeast Generals added three more players to their camp roster to work towards a roster spot for the 2021-2022 campaign. The process was lead by General Manager Matt Dibble who had the Generals only need to select three players due to their extensive work to secure key tenders, have a roster stocked with returners, and helping to cultivate a new energy in the group that was a key part of its renniasance last season as a team near the bottom of the standings pushed for a playoff spot near the end of the 2020-2021 campaign despite dealing with a myriad of challenges.

With that said, Head Coach Bryan Erikson had a lot to say about the draft work done by Dibble

He added

” This Draft was all Matt Dibble. He was hired to make a roster that can compete for a championship and I think he has done that all off season. So the draft is just a small part of what he has been doing. We had the fewest amount of picks in the draft because of all the hard work Matt did in the last 6 months. He has built a team we really like.”

Photo Credit: Northeast Generals

On the three picks, Erikson noted, first of young defender Jack Laferriere

” First we grabbed Jack Laferriere who is a big 05 D man that was a standout at the World Youth Championships with Roc City Elite. He is kid who works hard and comes from a great hockey pedigree. He has work to do to make the team but I think he can get there. Strong on his edges, good with the puck and does a great job with his gaps.”

For development, Dibble has seen Jack first hand as Dibble lead that Roc City team, and said “Jack Laferriere was one of the captains for our Roc City team this summer, we think he is a kid that will continue to develop and will play here some day. He is a great kid and works hard day in and out.”

Next, Erikson discussed Asher Wites, a smooth skating defender, Erikson said ” Then we chose Asher Wites who is a D man that we loved. Very smooth and dynamic with the puck. Another great skating D man that can make plays offensively and escape trouble with his feet. He will be very good very quickly for us. High end kid on and off the ice.”

Dibble added of Wites ” Asher Wites is a kid who we fully expect to come in here and compete to play every day. We think he is a kid with high end skating ability and hockey IQ. We are looking forward to working with him on his transition.”

For their final pick, the Generals selected a player from their East Division Champion NA3HL Team, Payton Felix. The Generals will benefit from having another forward with instant speed, and one that shows an ability to play with a certain level of toughness like their standout forward Jake Dunlap.

Erikson said of Felix ” Payton Felix has been with us for 2 years. 1 year with our U18 team where he was dominant and then 1 year with our NA3 team where he was again a huge contributor to the best team in the East. He has blinding speed, and a tremendous work ethic. He gets on pucks quickly on the forecheck, backchecks, finishes hits everywhere. Great kid from a great family. Excited for him to have this opportunity to push for a spot.”

Dibble added ” Peyton Felix is a kid who has shown loyalty to the generals organization and we are looking forward to him continuing to develop here in Attleboro.”

Felix has one year left in junnior hockey, and will have a full season and NAHL Showcase to show off that blinding speed at the next level. His game is similar to Michigan Tech Forward, Tyrone Bronte, who did not earn a college comittment until late in the cycle, in June before he played his freshman year last fall. Felix has the potential to earn a Division One spot, and lead a strong team forward to the playoffs this year, as he did last season, on the same sheet of ice.

The Generals will not have too crowded of a main camp, as they typically like to bring in players they could see playing for them and earning a spot, with that said look for some extra competition in a few spots to allow Erikson and Dibble to make the needed moves to get the best possible group ready for a full, grueling regular season schedule where the Generals hope to play a lot more at home than last year, with fans for all of their games.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Ryan Corcoran is the Generals’ Final Tender: Read More

For their final tender slot, General Manager of the Northeast Generals, Matt Dibble did not have to look too far from Attleboro to find the next General for the 2021-2022 group. He got playmaking forward from the USPHL-NCDC level Boston Advantage, Ryan Corcoran to sign with them for this season. Corcoran does not have to go far from home as he is a Duxbury native, only about 42.8 miles away from where he will be playing his home games this season.

Corcoran brings a lot to the group:

As Head Coach Bryan Erikson said ” Ryan Corcoran is a very good 200 foot player that has continued to develop. The NCDC is a very good Tier 3 league and does a decent job of developing players. There is still an adjustment when a player moves from Tier 3 to Tier 2 in the NAHL but we are confident that Ryan is ready. He has been on our radar for a few years, he’s a local kid and has had a ton of Division 1 interest from some Ivy League schools and other high end academic institutions. Ryan plays with great pace, see’s the ice well and is very responsible in the defensive zone. Great kid that we are excited to bring into the Generals Family.”

Corcoran is well known to the Generals, as Erikson went on to explain all of the traits he has and why he is the last tender, on Corcoran he added that.

“Corcoran a player that we have watched for several years. We wanted a Center that can play up the lineup and also be responsible in the D zone. And Ryan is that. He is great in the dot, great in the D zone and has a ton of offensive skill. Just a great guy to plug anywhere in the lineup with the confidence that he will produce good numbers.”

The Generals have another pivot forward that can win a large amount of draws, and will also be another veteran voice in the room, ready to help a group with a lot of returners push towards the playoffs this season. It was a smart choice for this group to add a player with Ivy League schools interested in him so late in the tender process, and Corcoran has shown the ability to add presence in all three zones. His ability to play a utility forward role in the lineup could serve as a unifying force for the Generals this year, and will give him a great platform to play in front of Division One teams nightly. All of the tenders for the Generals have immediate upside to help the team, and adress needs created by players moving on to the college game.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Northeast Generals tender Joseph McGraw: Read more

In the game of hockey, you find the talent that works best for your team, regardless of how old they are (if they can play for you of course). Joseph McGraw is a fast center that will be a young player for the Northeast Generals next year. For General Manager Matt Dibble, he has seen McGraw first hand as part of the Roc City Elite organization that won a championship at the World Youth Championship this summer. McGraw was a dominant force for them, putting up 19 points in eight games.

The Generals, before adding any external help have a leader to pick from this summer. Look for more from the team on the reast of their team as the summer goes on.

McGraw plays the game with pace and passion, and has a more mature game than many of his future opponents do right now.

Hear from Head Coach Bryan Erikson on what Joseph McGraw brings to the team next year

” Joe will be the youngest player in the NA by far next year. I think some teams are scared off by a kid that won’t be 16 until mid December. But he has a high end skill set and a maturity on and off the ice that goes well beyond his years. I think he’s a high end D1 player that is just going to get better and better. He played for Matt Dibble at the 05 World Youth Championships and was dominant. I’m anxious to see how quickly he can adjust to the level of play at the NA.”

Erikson knows what it takes to win at this level , and he thinks McGraw has those skills in more.

General Manager Matt Dibble added , of McGraw “ Joe was a kid who bought into what we were doing in Philly and reaped the rewards with huge production. He led that team on and off the ice.

Joe has NHL upside, and I think will be a high end division 1 recruit come august 2022 (when schools can formally offer a player of his age). He has an elite stick and has some of the best vision I have ever seen. What can’t be seen on video, is his character and what a good teammate he is.

I had at least a dozen schools ask about him the last 2 weeks, per NCAA rules they can not talk with him this year but when they can I think many of them will be asking for his number.”

The puck drops for the Generals in about 57 days on their 2021-2022 campaign, and McGraw figures to be a big part of that.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Zachary Cline to the Generals: Read more

If you look at the Northeast Generals, their forwards over the past few years are consistently up tempo, and know how to play the game in all three zones. Their group, from rookie to veteran, when at their best plays a high IQ brand of hockey.

Zachary Cline, their newest tender, and Lake Superior State commit, does all of those things. He has done those things playing for the HoneyBaked Youth Program, one of the best hockey programs for full person development in the country.

Given the departures the Generals have had up front, with players like Jonathan Young, Rickey Boysen, and many more leaving, there will be chances up front for the dependable forward to play, right away. The Generals also get another player coming to Attleboro that will be going to Lake Superior State in a few seasons.

As Head Coach Bryan Erikson said

” Zach is a super skilled forward with an amazing motor and compete level. He had offers from a few NA teams but I think our relationship with Lake State helped tip it in our favor. We expect Zach to step in and play a top 9 role right away. We expect to utilize his speed, tenacity and skill to play in all situations.”

If you compare his notes on the Generals’ tenders this summer, you will sense a theme. For the strength of its team this season, all of its forwards will have to play as a unit, and put up goals in bunches. Cline has the potential to do just that, and the backing to do so. The 5’5″ winger plays his game with a physical snarl, and high ability to score in bunches.

With the speed he brings, he will get plenty of looks to score, and carve out a path to college hockey similar to that of former Denver Pioneer, Troy Terry, or perhaps that of Colin Bilek, a player that found his stride in Attleboro and got a Division One offer and went from there. While Cline is committed to be a Laker, he can improve his profile, and maybe earn a late round selection next season with a strong showing this year.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Carson Limesand to the Northeast Generals: Read More

Photo provided by the Northeast Generals

This week, the Northeast Generals used a tender to sign a goaltender. Carson Limesand is an athletic netminder from the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Hockey team who is ready to take the next step into his junior hockey career. He is a natural leader who finished his high school career as a team captain. When you watch some of his past work, his ability to move with the play and crack the highlight reel is reminiscent of a Generals’ netminder who could hear his name called in the NHL Draft this month, Anton Castro.

Limesand projects as a high upside goaltender with the potential to play Division One Hockey, and some time in Attleboro is a good next step for him as he will have a chance to replicate his high school success at the next level.

From Head Coach Bryan Erikson

“Carson is a very athletic goaltender that we think will have a huge impact on the team in 2021-22. Carson comes from a very good MN High School team where he put up great numbers. This past year Carson went 12-6 with a 2.56gaa and a .912 save percentage. We look forward to him transitioning smoothly to the junior level and working with our goalie coach Steve Mastalerz.”

Given the background of Mastalerz, both on the ice as a goaltender and as a coach, the Generals have a good teacher to lead the way for Limesand and help him get to the next level. He has helped Hugo Haas, and Anton Castro find college homes, and has helped many other goaltenders develop regardless of style.

Limesand will be able to compete right away, and over time looks to get even better at reading plays to make more saves look run of the mill. His speed in net, and IQ for the game already show through, and in a year where no one is sure which players will be picked in the later rounds, there is an outside chance an NHL team could take a flyer on his development with a draft pick. He could be a high upside pickup for a team with a deep prospect pool in net, and one willing to invest time and energy in helping him get better. Division One teams and Erikson’s group already know what he can do, the NAHL will see what he can do soon, and the NAHL is a haven for developing goalies for the NHL level, regardless of draft status.

Erikson and General Manager Matt Dibble bring players to Attleboro that fit the family structure of the organization that know how to be leaders. Limesand fits that bill, and profiles as a sound netminder as well. Where he goes next is up to him, and the Northeast Generals’ organization will be completely behind him in getting him to that next step in his hockey and personal development.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Army West Point Hockey welcomes new cadets,remembers seniors, and prepares for a more normal season: Read more

Army West Point Head Ice Hockey Coach Brian Riley remembers every year he is fortunate to live his dream job as Head Coach of the Black Knights. Last year, amidst a broken stick he continued to use in practice, his group finished the season going unbeaten in their last 13 games before their hard fought battle with Canisius in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals where Riley’s group did everything but win the game. The stick was broken, but Army went on the streak, and Riley is famous in this game for not changing things when his team goes on long winning streaks.

When the season ended, the departing seniors, signed the broken stick. Riley now has it hung in his office as a reminder of the special group that gave everything to Army Hockey over their 47 month time in West Point.

Now he is ready for the season ahead. The full Army West Point schedule should be released soon, but Riley did confirm that the Black Knights will resume the one of the longest international rivalry series with Royal Millitary College which will occur in January of 2022. The Black Knights will be tested, as they always are in the perenially tough Atlantic Hockey Association.

One thing that will be different for his group this year, no more COVID 19 protocols. Why? Riley said that “Im pretty sure that our whole team has been fully vaccinated.” Players that have been vaccinated fully do not have to participate in three times per week tests, nor do they need to quarantine upon close contacts. The team got vaccinated because they wanted to,and those coming back to West Point are excited for the season ahead at Tate Rink.

On to the summer, this week the nine recruits coming to West Point took their first steps as New Cadets reporting for Cadet Basic Training. This rigorous process quickly acclimates incoming first year cadets, or plebes, to the realities of millitary life, and ensures they start their first year ready for the many challenges ahead of them in their 47 month experience on post.

In the first week, the new recruits have had one night at Tate Rink all together, and they will get to, in groups, or all together, get to visit the rink they will be playing on during the rigorous Cadet Basic Training to talk with coaches and get to bond with their new teammates and skate. For the first part of Cadet Basic Training, they will see some familiar faces as leaders, as Daniel Haider, Anthony Firriolo, and Patrick Smyth are part of the leadership group in Cadet Basic Training. Smyth is expected to make a return to the lineup this season, and the power forward will provide some physical depth to the group this year, As Riley said of the his goal for the new cadets during this time, it is ” For me to get them up to the rink its more for them to relax and jump out on the ice.” Every single season, the new cadets bond pretty quickly with one another, despite the fact that many of them have faced each other in the junior hockey ranks. As Riley said “I’m always amazed with how as a group they’ve bonded together off the ice.”

Going forward, the Black Knights return the leading goal scorer from last season nationwide in Colin Bilek. If he reprises anywhere close to his 2020-2021 campaign, he will have plenty of pro interest following the season as an undrafted free agent ready to play in the NHL. The Black Knights have depth in their forward group this season, but will have some questions with their defense group, and in net. The goaltenders jockeying to fill the spot left by the graduation and commissioning of All American Trevin Kozlowski have played a combined three and a half games. Riley is ready to see how each of them compete and help each other get better as a group. As he said of the challenges ahead “this is what makes coaching fun… every year is different.”

He also took the time to praise the work of his coaching staff, and all of those who work to make Army Hockey what it is today, especially its play by play announcer, Nikolai Busko. His deep knowledge of the game and his passionate and respectful style is always fun to listen to, and his voice will always resonate in the lore of Army Hockey as narrating some of its biggest moments.

As Riley said of Nikolai “what a passion he has not only for Army Hockey and Army sports, but for college hockey, and we are very fortunate to have him doing our games.” He also singled out for praise his director of Hockey Operations, Kris Horn, saying that ” he’s one of those guys that never gets accolades but just does so much behind the scenes… he’s on top of things. ”

From welcoming the nine members of his new plebe class, to preparing for the first full season his team will have since 2019-2020, Riley has a lot on his plate, along with his staff. For now, he is anxious for August, and to see his full team back together, ready to make a run at this program’s first NCAA tournament trip, and more beyond that.

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