Photo Credit: Army West Point Athletics
The Hockey Team for Army West Point is ready to face the Golden Griffins of a determined Canisius side lead by Trevor Large. In the Atlantic Hockey Association semifinals tomorrow, 75 percent of its coaches are either Riley, or a coached by one of his former assistants, Trevor Large at Canisius, and Eric Lang at AIC. While Riley and his staff have done a lot of pre-scout work on Large’s group to pick up on tendencies, the main focus of this week for him in practice has been on continual development and refining the smaller details needed to For Riley’s group this week, despite playing a group that has a lot of skill, all around the ice, especially in their forward group, as Riley said , on what stands out with their skill level, ” I think their skill level… their forwards, the plays they can make off the rush, the great goaltending.”
Riley said that ” they have everything” and knows his group will be facing one of the faster teams in this conference that has been playing well since returning from their pandemic-caused shutdowns. The standout forward to watch from the Golden Griffins is Keaton Mastrodonato. He is one of the better forwards at scoring shorthanded in the country based on his rookie season (tied for the lead in the nation with three last year), and is often the faster player on the ice. As Riley said of what he can do killing penalties, “you’ve got to be going in first gear the whole time… or otherwise he can make you pay.”
Given that, and the fact that his group will be facing a goaltender with similar traits to Trevin Kozlowski in Jacob Barczewski, the Black Knights will be facing a team with every ability to end well before any Black Knight wants it to end. Because Riley has not played Large’s group all year given the unbalanced schedule of the Atlantic Hockey Pod system put in place, he views is as an opportunity saying “it allows you to focus on your team.. that’s what we’ve done all year.”
As for Riley himself, today he was given the Atlantic Hockey Award for Coach of the Year in the Eastern Pod, but he views it as anything but his award. He stressed that it was a team award, going so far as to say “that’s a team and a staff award.. im so lucky to be surrounded by a great team and staff.. I’m sharing that with everybody.” He went on to add, “I haven’t won any games.. ive probably lost a couple of games”, and then went on to describe in as humble a manner as possible of how he tries to not let himself get in the way of his players, saying “I just try to stay out of their way.”
That level of humility is common amongst those in this program. With that said, everyone knows they have a challenge coming up with Canisius, but with that challenge comes an acknowledgment of the impact Brian Riley has had on Atlantic Hockey beyond his own school. Two of the programs in this semifinal have former Riley assistants at the helm with Eric Lang at AIC, and Large at Canisius. Riley went on to say “its pretty exciting for me where two of the other three coaches are coaches that i had the opportunity to coach with.”
As to the week, after the group got back on the ice, Riley senses the focus from his group. He said ” this is one of those weeks where you don’t have to say anything.” The seniors in this group know the value of each game, Riley knows what the weekend could be, but he is focusing on the moment and the mountain of a challenge Large’s team presents him. Of what Army will do, regardless of score, Riley said “we’ll just keep battling.” His team has played from a variety of points, down one or two, and up by the same, and as cliched as this may be, it has some truth to it. Riley knows his team has to be the ones controlling the pace to how they like it, and forcing their opponent to read and react as needed to make the play.
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