Stellar Special teams earn sweep as Army West Point wins first half finale 4-3

Photo Credit:RIT Athletics

The game started weird. RIT took a minor penalty for a protocol violation in warmups as a Tiger shot the puck to the Black Knights end. Brian Riley has coached this team as its head coach since 2004 and has not seen that ever happen. Although the power play didn’t produce a goal, it was a sign of another game where special teams would be front and center. The Tigers went into the third period leading 3-2 and looking to steal the finale at home. The Black Knights fought back in the third and thanks to a superb shot from Colin Bilek and a shorthanded breakaway from John Keranen, they would earn the sweep and finish the first half of the Atlantic Hockey season in third place outright.

One constant all weekend was netminder Gavin Abric who kept Army in the game. As Head Coach Brian Riley said, “ He made all the saves that he should and a couple of other ones.”

Riley went on to discuss what he told the team heading into the third period. He said of that moment “ This is the first time that we’ve been down all weekend. Now we had to prove that we could battle back, the guys were good and they all believed that we were going to tie that thing of, once again that’s what Colin Bilek can do, all he needs is one shot. That’s what they did to us at our place.”

On Anthony Firriolo “ he’s almost like half forward half defenseman. He’s had a really good first half for us.” He opened the special teams scoring with a seeing eye shot on the power play for his seventh goal of the season, leading the team.

On adjustments before the third period, Riley said “ we switched ( centers) John Keranen and Eric Butte in the third. We just wanted to try and get something five on five.” The team had a good video session to prepare for the game. “ once again it came down to special teams. Our power play had two goals.” Riley praised the penalty kill for their work as well in stealing momentum and winning them the game late.

On Keranen, Riley was effusive in his praise saying that “Johnny K is one of those players, if you’re a good hockey person you’ll notice him because he’s so smart , he just does a lot of really good things that go unnoticed.”

Riley finished by talking about how things have come together for this group relative to expectations. In their last 10 games this group is 7-2-1 heading into the second half of the season.

“ A lot of guys have stepped up, last year our strength was in our goaltending and defense, the only way you get experience is by playing. We started off 0-6, we were in a lot of games but just not on the right side of it. Our defense and goaltending have been really good for us.”

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