Photo Credit:Army West Point Athletics
Colin Bilek has come a long way. The Brighton, Michigan native has, at every stop in his hockey journey, both on and off the ice gotten better because of his work ethic and desire to be a selfless servant and help others suceeed.
He had one division one offer from Army West Point, and came to campus and put up goals and points in bunches. Last year’s group doesn’t get as far as they did into the national picture without the help of Bilek. This year’s group has seen plebes like Joey Baez, Michael Sacco, and Hunter McCoy develop fast in part to the help of Bilek in the leadership group.
As his NAHL Head Coach at the Northeast Generals, Bryan Erikson said of Bilek and his development since getting to West Point “ Colin has improved on every single part of his game because that is what great players do. They expect greatness from themselves and work to attain it. He has improved his skating, his shot, his passing, everything. When we send a player to college we want them to still have room to grow. A player that isn’t still improving will just get stuck in neutral. But Colin isn’t that type of person. He is always working hard to improve. And what an amazing career he has had at Army. Can’t wait to watch him in professional hockey!”
Bilek came into this season as the leading returning goal scorer from a year ago. With that said, he has generated chances and opportunities for his team in greater abundance, as he has put up 17 assists in 31 games so far compared to 7 in 22 games last year.
As Erikson said, Bilek has improved on every aspect of his game in his time at West Point. While he is a goal scorer that is not the only thing he is known for. Part of the reason Army West Point wins so many faceoffs is because Bilek is skilled at helping get 50/50 pucks as the support winger. In addition, unlike many top end goal scorers for college hockey, Bilek plays ample time on the penalty kill, and often is the hardest working player on the ice in those situations.
Bilek has talked a lot about his relationship with Erikson. The two talk frequently, and Bilek has an award named after him that the Northeast Generals give out every year, and his number retired by them. For a junior hockey player, that level of distinction is rare, for Bilek it is earned.
For the next level, in a couple of months when teams start looking, a player like Bilek could fill a lot of roles for teams in pro hockey.If teams look beyond the box score at the whole player and what they are getting, Bilek is more developed than a lot of players with similar characteristics, and will be an under the radar find for which ever team wants to give him a chance. For now, Bilek is focusing on continuing to lead and getting Army Hockey to their first ever NCAA Tournament.
As Head Coach of Army West Point Brian Riley said of Bilek after the series opener against Holy Cross where Bilek scored the game winner“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone have a bigger smile coming back to the bench after scoring a goal, if he starts to feel it watch out. He’s a guy that can take games over for sure.” Bilek understands the need to “ride the wave” when it comes to goal scoring, and this year he has created a lot of opportunities for his team even with scoring a few less goals.
As Hunter McCoy said of Bilek as a leader, he added of what has helped him the most “Being able to watch him every day, see his work ethic.” They were roommates on the the trip this past weekend. “He’s been one of the best leaders I’ve been around.”
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