Brian Riley, Head Coach of Army West Point, noted how deep his team is. Tonight, they built it to six with a 3-1 victory over the Pioneers of Sacred Heart in a game where the Black Knights only suffered one penalty for two minutes. This was done without Hobey Baker Candidate Colin Bilek scoring a goal. In addition, the discipline this team has been playing with on this streak is part of why they are now in third in the Atlantic Hockey standings. Riley was most impressed with Army’s forecheck, and their consistency in being able to keep pucks in the net and puck hunting to extend shifts and wear down the Pioneers. This paid off in the second period, as the three goals scored by Mason Kruger and Eric Butte (2, first multi goal game) proved to be the difference.
The leader of tonight’s effort on the score sheet was forward, Eric Butte. He put home two goals to mark his first multi goal game as a Black Knight, and keyed the victory. Riley said that pf the junior forward, “he’s somebody that we are counting on to give us some goal scoring.” In addition Riley said that, “Butte’s been working so hard.” Eric’s case is the classic one of a goal scorer with little puck luck, according to Riley, and he hopes that the hard work Butte does to generate possession will turn into more goals for him in the near future.
Of his team, Riley praised the second period start for them, as Mitch Matchlitt put home the opening salvo just 19 seconds in, with Hobey Baker candidate Colin Bilek providing the secondary assist. On the evening, Bilek showed his worth in all three zones, including putting up at least two tough shot blocks in the last six minutes of the game. Riley praised Bilek’s team first play, and consistency, two key traits for anyone in this game to have, especially the Assistant Captain of the Black Knights. Bilek’s ability to generate offense off the rush makes his team better, as tonight showed once more. In addition, he is often out there to keep leads for his team, and was able to do so tonight once more.
In net, Trevin Kozlowski played a confident game and kept his team in the game. “Trevin just feels very confident in goal right now. ” “We’re playing well because he’s playing well,” Riley said. Kozlowski finished with 27 shots on 28 shots faced on the evening. Throughout the year, he has arguably been the steadiest Black Knight on this team, and his confidence in net, and fluid game allows the team in front of him to push forward more, knowing Kozlowski’s got their backs. In addition to this, the solid and consistent defense corps of tonight, combined with the line lead by Jake Felker held possession and did a superb job suppressing high quality looks for the Pioneers.
Going into the finale, Riley already knows one big point of emphasis for his group tomorrow. While the Black Knights did a lot of things right, they did not control the middle of the ice well enough. This matters, because Sacred Heart is a quick team and relies on being able to skate into pucks through the neutral zone and fire passes to the weak side with speed. The Pioneers are a hard team to defend when they get through the middle with speed, and Riley and his staff will drive that message home to his team before the finale in West Point tomorrow evening. Should Army West Point earn the sweep, the number of people thinking they will merit an at-large bid will increase more than it has to this point.
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