Colin Bilek: Constantly improving and learning

(Photo Credit: Army West Point Athletics)

Colin Bilek is the leading goal scorer for the Army West Point Black Knights Hockey Team. He has a natural eye for the net, and a strong eye to compete and get better in all aspects of what he does every day. As a leader, he enjoys his upper class status in the Corps of Cadets. On the ice, he is a natural leader for Head Coach Brian Riley’s group, and a big reason for this team’s 11 game unbeaten streak. He is a natural goal scorer, and leads the team with 16 goals in 19 games played. With less games played this season, Bilek has already scored more than he did in either of his first two seasons playing for Riley’s group .

Colin is his own player, when we asked him and one of his best friends, Trevin Kozlowski, senior Army goaltender which professional they each model their game after, Trevin mentioned a current goaltender while Bilek kept the focus on himself. The Brighton, Michigan native emphasized that he simply is trying to forge his own path at West Point, and while he grew up liking the play of Detroit Red Wings’ legend Brendan Shanahan, he never focused on any pro comparisons. The path Bilek took to Army West Point involved playing on a four win Northeast Generals team in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in all sorts of roles, and then finishing ten points better (40 points to 50 points the following season) the following year as the Captain of a Northeast group that went to the Robertson Cup playoffs.

Development for Bilek is not limited to his time at West Point. Northeast Generals Coach Bryan Erikson noted of his growth that the biggest area of his game that Bilek worked on is his skating. Erikson said that of Bilek’s effort, ” he always has worked hard, could always rip the puck but his skating has always been an issue. But he worked so hard on it. Hour after hour and improved incredibly. That combined with his amazing anticipation allow him to win races and battles with much faster players.” His incredible work ethic earned him his only Division One offer, from Army West Point. He since took it and has grown each year playing for Riley’s group.

Early on, Bilek did get one thing, a nickname. He did not know why, but current Rochester American, and former Black Knights’ Captain, Dominic Franco started calling Bilek ” Bilos” during Colin’s first season as a Cadet. Eventually Riley started writing his name in the lineup as “Bilos” and the name stuck. Given Riley’s penchant for going with what works, well, he has no reason to ever change the nickname given the consistent offensive firepower Bilek has brought to this group.

There is one common thread from Bilek’s time at Northeastern to his choice to attend Army West Point. Of his work with the Generals he said “they care more about me as a person.” That is the same philosophy Brian Riley learned from his father Jack, and lives by each day leading his team.

Of that selflessness, Bilos noted the utter fortune he has to go up against Kozlowski every day in practice. The two compete against each other in practice pretty heavily. That competition comes from a mutual friendship and desire to see the other get better. The two turned their initial desire for playing time into a partnership designed to further hone and refine their skills every time they are on the ice. The example Bilek and Trevin have set in this regard, from two future leaders of the Soldiers of America, is impressive to see for its granularity. The two compete with all good cheer, use their energy to further their team, as both plan to do following graduation and upon commissioning as Second Lieutenants in the Army.

Jokingly, to compliment Kozlowski Bilek said to him directly via their joint Zoom interview that, ” if my shooting percentage is five percent against you I’m still pretty good.” Trevin routinely gives the best goal scorer in Atlantic Hockey tips on how to refine his game and beat him.

Seriously, Bilek positively noted that, based on his almost three full seasons at West Point, “I think healthy competition is at the core of our team.” Of Trevin’s consistent skill he added that, “when you’re shooting at the best goalie in the conference every week it makes the team better.” He finally added that, of their competition and the mentorship imparted by Trevin that, “he might not want me to score on him but he wants me to score on the other guy,”

Bilek noted that this team still has its own destiny firmly in its hands. When the subject of his group earning an at large bid was brought up, he noted the same thing that Riley has on multiple occasions. Winning solves all concerns about the postseason aspirations of his group. With that said, with leaders like Bilek and Kozlowski, among the many leaders on the team, the Black Knights, thanks to Bilek’s development and ability to make others better, combined with the selfless nature with which they all play the game, make them tough competition in the postseason for any group, at any time and place.

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