Army West Point earns a special win: What’s next

The Black Knights of Army West Point had everything to play for yesterday. They were facing a Long Island University Sharks team playing the final game of its first season in Division One. It was senior night, as the Black Knights have eight senior players and two senior student managers in their group. One of its leaders is goaltender Trevin Kozlowski. He finished the night with 20 saves on 23 shots to help his group to a 6-3 win.

On senior night, Army Head Coach Brian Riley noted “I think this is one of those special moments that really hits home.” Before the game, Army West Point did a fabulous job honoring all of the seniors partaking in their last regular season home affair at Tate Rink. These videos all included a personal shoutout from a relative or someone close to the senior. They were all nicely done, and put together with the utmost professionalism and honor for the 47 month journey every one of the ten cadets will have taken when they graduate this May.

To the game, early on, it looked like the Sharks would make Army work for their luck, and early on they did just that. The Sharks struck first in the first period, and took the 1-0 lead into the intermission. Then, the power play of the Black Knights went to work in the second period. They struck for four goals in a row on the power play, including Colin Bilek potting his 16th goal of the season. The Hobey Baker Award candidate is now second in the country in goals with 16, and first on the power play with 8 markers.

Another standout for the Black Knights was Anthony Firriolo. The sophomore defender added a hat trick on the night, and helped chip in on defense to preserve the win. The Black Knights, as a unit, where able to come from behind once again with their system. In a repetitive scene many times over this 11 game unbeaten streak, Riley’s team stuck with what they do well, consistent pursuit of the puck, and forcing the opponent to out skill you to beat them. When the Sharks made a mistake, the Black Knights often made them pay last night. For a team that lost to this same group after a series opening win back in January, this effort was needed to send them to the Atlantic Hockey playoffs in two weeks on the right foot, and to bolster their surging at-large resume for the NCAA Tournament.

What comes next

Brian Riley is not typically a superstitious person. However, on this 11 game unbeaten streak he has not gotten a hair cut or worn a different suit behind the bench. As Riley said of this superstition, ”I guess when you get on a streak it brings out the worst.” One way to ensure that Riley keeps having to wear the same suit and avoid getting a haircut for the Black Knights is in not taking unforced errors. Multiple times last night, the team negated some of their earned power play time with taking penalties shortly after they went on the power play. Riley hopes that ends now, as any margin for error is gone, as one of those mistakes could end Army’s season prematurely. As Riley put it succinctly, :If we do that in the playoffs that’s going to cost us, [and] we need to have learned our lesson on that now”

Next week for the team will be a chance for them to work on special situations and get better as a team before they play a firsr round winner hungry to spoil all of the streaks this team is on and end their at-large hopes the following weekend. The postseason begins in two weeks, but for Riley and his staff, the work of developing these leaders to be at their best on the ice is an ongoing mission.

Army West Point Hockey: Continuing the mission with class

Yesterday, the Black Knights of Army West Point again showed their depth. 11 players got at least a point, and Trevin Kozlowski secured his first shutout of the season with a 20 save effort, and the Black Knights did what they needed to do in order to secure a 5-0 vicotry over the Sharks of Long Island University. Hobey Baker Award Candidate Colin Bilek contributed an assist and a goal on the evening to spur the victory up front. While his 14th goal of the season came as many have, on a perfect release before anyone playing against him could counter it, the best play he made was on his assist. He was able to turnover the Sharks along the wall and find a wide open Mitch Machlitt who had all of time and space he needed to wire one past Garett Metcalf. The final goal of the evening was special as Jake Felker scored his first career goal on a redirect off a Thomas Farell pass. Now, the Black Knights, with a win, would firmly put themselves on the national tournament bubble for an at large selection, given that they have not lost a game in regulation since. January 6 to league champion American International College.

There is still a pitfall that awaits this group today when they play in their Senior Night matchup against these Sharks in a few hours. They lost to this same Long Island group on Jnuary 16 in overtime after they played the better game the night before. Brett Riley will have his Sharks ready tonight, because as of now, this is the final game these Sharks will play in their first season. The chance for Riley’s group to spoil the bubble hopes of this Army team, coached by his uncle (Brian is Brett’s uncle). In addition, despite not being in the NCAA tournament picture, the senior class for Long Island will be playing to do three things in some form or fashion, and they are the following, they all want to end their careers in college hockey on a win, show off to professional scouts looking for free agents to sign,and if any of them are able to stay another season, to show to Brett and his staff how they can help his developing group next season,. All winter sports student-athletes are allowed an extra season of eligibility at the Division One Level, and some Sharks may want to avail themselves of that, if Brett and his staff will have them back.

Now, back to Army, lead by Head Coach Brian Riley. He and his group did something special for Brett and his senior class. They held a senior night ceremony for the four seniors that was all Brian’s descision. He thought of this with enough time to have the proper presentation,and worked to make sure the streaming of the festivities happened so LIU parents could see that moment. The Sharks have not had a home game against a Division One opponent this season, and Riley brought the idea up to his nephew as a matter of settled fact. He said to Brett “hey we are gonna honor your seniors.”When asked why, his response was simple, “every senior that plays college hockey deserves that moment.” Every one of Brian’s players backed the idea, and Brian said of it in total that of the sportsmanship his group showed for this moment, ” when it comes down to it we are all playing the sport that we love.”

Tonight, the 10 seniors (8 players and 2 student managers) will be honored for their years of dedication to the program. Riley is incredibly proud of all that they have done for Army West Point Hockey, and hopes that a lot more is to come for them. They already have one more home series in 13 days to look forward to at Tate Rink. Riley hopes that their Army West Point Hockey Careers finish at PPG Paints Arena, at the Frozen Four.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Where we started… and what comes next

I don’t think we have ever hold the story of why Seamore Sports exists, here is that story.

Seamore Sports started in 2016 following the conclusion of U18 tournament in Grand Forks, ND. I love goaltending. The skill, focus and poise that it takes to play that position. We attended the Latvia vs Sweden game, when we noticed the confidence of Latvian net minder Mareks Mitens in facing 47 shots. I just loved his level of compete and the international game itself. It opened my eyes to all of the great hockey around us that we did not take the time to see and talk about.Players with stories just like Mitens’ are all around the world, and very abundant in college hockey. My love for the game of hockey just grew and grew with the more I learned and watched. It truly is a beautiful game.

I have a complicated medical condition, called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and when Oliver and I met, I was just starting to come to terms with my diagnosis. I was struggling with the realization that is was a life long condition and quality of life I was looking at. The disease was first called the suicide disease when it was discovered around the Civil War for its high consistent pain that it inflicted on soldiers, who years later, some committed suicide to escape the endless pain my condition gives me. With this in mind, I badly needed a distraction. Seamore Sports became that distraction and has sense evolved into our shared passion.

Earlier in the year, Oliver had introduced me to hockey by taking me to a UND vs UMD series, which still is one of the most memorable games I have ever been too. Many of you know what game I am referring to without giving details. For everyone else, it was the over time penalty shot winner from Austin Poganski. For the first time in over two years, my pain melted away and I knew the rink was my home.

Over the last five years, Seamore Sports has turned into everything I didn’t think it ever could. However, it hasn’t always been an easy thing. Towards the end of the 2019-2020 season, I was done. I was struggling with the lack of success and my passion was failing. I had even told Oliver, that it was going to be my last season and I was done. One night in Friday January, someone who I had never met walked in the media room on ice level while I was getting my computer and camera set up for the University of North Dakota (UND) vs University of Alabama- Huntsville (UAH) and asked to sit down. We had a conversation about hockey realignment and talked for a solid 45 minutes, at the end of the conversation, I introduced myself and asked if he was UAH’s Sports Information Director, he smiled and laughed, “Nope, I am head coach Mike Corbett.” Over the course of the weekend, we spent time watching and talking with UAH coaching staff and players. If you are a fan of Alabama Huntsville, and you read our work at all, thank Mike Corbett for encouraging us to start with that first conversation at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

During this time, I fell back in love with hockey. I had renewed hope that the mission of Seamore Sports was ready to change. Now, we are the voice of the Division One College Hockey underdogs, and all those who work to help them shine. Our goal is to work and talk with as many teams, players and coaches that make up this great game. We will be talking with junior hockey players, writing about so many stories that, just like Mitens, deserve a higher level of attention than the media structure in this game is set to provide. In addition, we hope to work with schools over coming years to help train interns to get into writing about more underdogs in this game and creating a network of passionate people to cover the sport we all love.

I, and this independent outlet would not be standing here today, with Oliver by my side helping me to grow this, and taking photos professionally without the people below. If you are not on this list but we have talked to you, know that you matter and are a part of this as well. Also, if you are not on this list, but are involved with this sport at any level from potential commit, to alumnae, to coach or general manager at any level, or any other of the many categories, know that we want to talk to you. Oliver writes many of his recaps with the title of “Beyond the box score” because this game is so much more than a contest to see who scores the most. It is a stage in and of itself, and overtime, its actors depart and new ones try to fill their shoes, and grow, and move to the next level. We want to highlight all those on their path to the stage, and talk about the good done by them as they leave it, and their mentors along the way.

I cannot thank the following people enough (in no particular order):

Eric Lang: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us in 2019 at the Fargo regional following the win against number one St.Cloud. Not only that, but almost 2 years later you remembered us, but not only that you remembered our son, over a phone call. It’s also nice to have a candid conversation with a coach. This game needs more coaches like you in it, and this world needs more good humans like yourself in it. This was the first regional we had covered since I gave birth to our two year old, Henrik (who loves to play floor hockey, and is enthralled with zambonis he sees during intermission), and your encouragement, along the kindness shown to us by you, Seth,and every AIC-associated person that weekend will not ever be forgotten.

Damon Whitten: You remembered our faces after about a year when Bemidji State won that first game by more than a little. You took time to help coordinate media interviews with Mareks and Yuki Miura. In addition, you, like the other coaches in this article are straight up and honest about everything. We appreciate that, and know that as the Lakers progress this year, we will work to cover you with the same verve a national outlet covers the many bigger schools you play (this goes for all teams we cover).

Seth Dussault: You, my friend, have been such a support during our transition. You where the first media relations person to really believe in our mission.Within an hour of seeing you on the day where the non upset happened, I heard you promoting AIC to Oliver, talking about one of your most famous alumnae, Congressman Richard Neal. You are always there to provide feedback on our ideas and articles, and you are one of many people we are fortunate to have in our corner

Mike Corbett: Corbs, thank you for helping me find that spark and fire again. It’s always a joy to have you on the phone and just talk hockey. Our conversations could go on for days and I love how blunt and honest you are. It is much appreciated, the realness that you bring to the table is a rare and beautiful thing. The effort you put into this game, and have put into it for the many decades you have been a part of it, is a thing we hope to more fully chronicle one day.

Brian Riley: I will never forget the fact that you reached out to us on Twitter, my jaw hit the floor and I was on cloud nine for days leading up to our first conversation.Not often does any coach reach out to us, let alone one with your background (its ok to celebrate it a bit as its extensive). Now, it’s like talking to an old friend. You have helped us understand things in the bigger picture of life, and remind us of the simple joy of this game every time we talk. As we agree that College Hockey is a big family, thanks to you, and all whom you work with for making us feel more welcomed at the ever growing table this game provides us all. The joy that you get from coaching the future leaders of armed forces is contagious. I will never understand how Army West Point is forgotten about on the national conversation year after year.

Thank you to every one who has ever read anything that we put out, and to everyone in this game for allowing an independent outlet from Fargo North Dakota to provide you unique stories on so many teams. We have only just begun, and are excited, indeed, for what comes next.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Army West Point 2 Bentley 1 :More on another overtime thriller

The Black Knights of Army West Point are consistent this year at a few things. You know that the effort from Brian Riley’s team will always be there. You know Colin Bilek will lead the way up front, as he did with goal number 13 on the season. It was a nicely placed shot that left his stick before Jason Grande could figure out anything about the shot heading past him. Oh, and you now know that the Black Knights get a first round bye, as they have ensured Sacred Heart cannot pass them.

After the first goal, again allowed by the Black Knights, Army fought back once more. A few minutes later in the opening frame, Anthony Firriolo took the puck behind the net and saw Bilek darting toward the slot and fed him. As Head Coach Brian Riley said, “That’s the one thing about Bilos (Bilek’s nickname).. i don’t know many guys who can one time the puck as well as Bilos does.” Part of the reason Bilek is one of the best all around players in the country is because of his work ethic. As starting goaltender, Trevin Kozlowski said of their relationship, ” him and I have a pretty healthy competitive relationship.” For the past two years, every practice involves them keeping score. Both have made each other immeasurably better over that time. The work both have put in are a big reason why this team is unbeaten in its last nine games.

Bilek is one of the best goal scorers in the country, with 13 tallies after tonight, and Kozlowski is one of the best goaltenders in the country. He is incredibly confident, and consistent. When Bentley scored first, he did not get rattled, and settled in, making 20 saves on the night. A few of those were in the third period where Army had to answer the Falcons’ consistent pressure, and he was up to the task. The Black Knights were very physical through the neutral zone all night. They were consistent and stymied a very fast Bentley team with their checking.

Riiley had this to say about the physicality his team always brings noting ” I just think that if you’re a team with Army across your chest you better have some physical play.”

To wrap things up, Daniel Haider scored another overtime winner. This time, it came on a feed from Eric Butte, and again Haider sent Army home from Tate Rink with another win, and notch in their belts in their quest for the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament selection. Both shots from Bilek and Haider were able to stay a little lower to the rink than normal, and each of them came off their sticks perfectly.

Of the Haider goal, it happened so fast that Riley said, “I didn’t even realize that it went in at first until everyone started jumping up on the bench.”

Kozlowski and Riley had some thoughts about the evening as well. First, its important to note that after the team wins, the player of the last winning game gives the puck to the winner of the current game’s award. Thomas Farrell handed the puck to Haider for his overtime winner. He then handed it to Kozlowski, who said this about receiving the honor, “I think that kind of speaks volumes about our team… we’re not a team of standouts.. when anybody jumps over the boards on a given shift we think that line can produce.”

On the evening and his group, Riley said that, “you know you have a special team when its a group that understands about playing for each other and not with each other.” This game tonight, for all those guys who played in it was a leadership laboratory out there tonight.”

Kozlowski had the best summation of Army’s progress in the conference, and how the team is viewing what they need to do moving forward in saying, ” a lot of people might write us off.. but at the end of the day our record speaks for itself.”

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

For the NCAA Tournament consider Army: Here’s why

The Black Knights of Army West Point earned another victory last night with a 5-1 win against the Falcons of Bentley. This win gave them a sweep on the weekend, their sixth straight win, and tenth straight game of earning at least a point in Atlantic Hockey. In raw points earned, the Black Knights are third behind an AIC and Robert Morris team that both deserve at-large consideration.

Last night’s efforts, given the Selection Committee’s need to use some sort of “eye test”, in our minds moved Head Coach Brian Riley’s team into the at large category, if the season ended today. Riley was proud of his team both nights this weekend, but thought they actually played better in the Friday night overtime victory than last night in a 5-1 game that turned into a blowout pretty quickly. The Black Knights scored four unanswered goals to provide the final margin, featuring on the evening one from Hobey Baker candidate Colin Bilek, and two each from Brett Abdelnour and Thomas Farell.

This Army team is deep, and has a pretty extensive comitee that Riley relies on for goal scoring. Everyone of his lines are capable of taking over the game at times, and all of them have their own strengths. The line lead by Colin Bilek always seems to be on the ice for big moments, and last night was no different.

The most unique thing about this team is their selflessness. Riley personified that through discussing Bilek, in noting that he is the leader of this team, and being recognized for his goals sure, but that Bilek also sacrifices himself for the team at every signle opportunity. Colin Bilek’s ability to transition from a shot block to a goal scoring chance on the same shift is one of the better ones in the country. He inspires the team up front to push forward, and has made the many goal scorers on this team better.

In net, Trevin Kozlowski is a consistent rock for this team. His ability to play a calm and consistent game, along with having a short memory on conceding less than ideal goals is just some of the reason why he is 9-3-1 on the year, and skyrocketing up the Mike Richter Award discussion, as he should be. Riley knows that his team is not in a poistion to fight for an at large bid without Kozlowski in net.

Let’s now look at why Army should be under consideration for an at-large spot. First, this team is complete, on its face, and in how it plays. They are disciplined, and able to compete with most teams in the country. In addition to this, they have been able to win many different types of games as of late, but seem to almost thrive more when the score is close, as the Tournament normally is. This team has shown it can beat the best opponents on its schedule, when it is all you can do in a year of virutally no non conference games. They are the last group to beat an AIC teamm one that should earn an at large bid, in regulation. They are able to play with everyone because of who Riley brings in and how he and his staff develop them. Like his protégé, Eric Lang, Riley has his teams play defense first, and be able to, when playing well, score in waves. Only three skaters of Riley’sgroup do not have at least a point, of those who have played at least one game.

Finally, given the dearth of teams playing in the ECAC, and the likelihood of Quinnipiac winning the tournament, we expect that conference to earn only one bid. If that holds, and the Big 10 earns two spots, there will be more spots to go around. Why not, during this season, given adverse conditions, give the extra spot to a team full of people who, if their trajectory holds will have earned the selection, and a group of people training to lead soldiers in adverse conditions all around the world. Brian Riley’s group has proven its ability to thrive under adverse conditions, what better place to showcase that then at the NCAA Tournament, for the first time in this storied program’s history?

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Hobey Baker Award Underdogs: Part one

This year, as is normal , the national conversation for the proposed winner of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award is centering around the NCHC, and Big 10 for the most part. While some of that is well justified, given the success of players like Shane Pinto and Cole Caufield, the lack of a discussion around many deserving players in these two leagues is not, and we will seek to provide more of that discussion for deserving players. We will work to highlights 2-3 players in each article to begin to scratch the surface of the true depth that Atlantic Hockey, and the WCHA have in Hobey Baker conversation.

For today, we will look at three players, Colin Bilek, junior forward for the Black Knights of Army West Point, senior defenseman Brennan Kapcheck and senior forward for AIC Tobias Fladeby. While Fladeby was not nominated in part due to his returning from an after missing more than a few weeks of hockey due to injury, that does not change his importance to Eric Lang’s group. W e have no doubt that the pace he was on would have earned him further consideration if healthy, and given his senior status and leading role in getting some of Kapcheck’s statistics, he merits some time of coverage here. Both Kapcheck and Fladeby will earn professional contracts when they are ready to make the leap to the next level, and at the beginning of the year, Fladeby’s pace had him high on our early consideration list for this award.

Colin Bilek

Of the top ten goal scorers in the country, only three of them have goals at even strength, shorthanded, and on the power play. They are Shane Pinto of North Dakota, Johnny Evans of the University of Connetoicut, and Bilek. He is everywhere his head coach Brian Riley needs him to be. He also has the 12 goals on the seaon on just 57’s hotss. Given his ability to find the net in somewhat limited shots per game, Bilek has become a key contributor on an Army West Point team looking to snag an at-large bid this season. In addition, he only has 12 penalty minutes for the year, showing the disciplined game he plays. He is the biggest scoring threat for Riley’s team on the ice, and off the ice is a leader at West Point. Look for Bilek’s national accolades to match the success of Army West Point down the stretch. As Riley said of Bilek ” the big thing when i think about Bilek.. he is more than just a goal scorer.. I think you’re a real good player when you make others around you better.. and he does that… he has an energy level like nobody that I’ve ever seen.”

Brennan Kapcheck

We do not know everything about AIC Hockey, to find a person that comes a lot closer to that ideal you would have to talk to Seth Dussault, AIC Communications Coordinator and one of the many good humans that work with this hockey team. Despite that, we can suspect that Kapcheck is one of or the most NHL ready player to come through this program in any iteration. As Eric Lang noted, about half of the NHL has already talked to him about Kapcheck, and it is possible in the right situation that Brennan could crack an opening night roster next season. He is a smooth skating defender with one of the most underappreciated hockey games in the country. He is about as smooth of a skater as as Troy Stecher, and just as fast.

Kapcheck’s intelligence and ability to generate offense make him a key part of a group looking to earn an at large bid. He has 14 assists through 16 games and sports a plus 12. He will not score as many goals as some defenders under consideration, but AIC is not where it is without Brennan Kapcheck setting so many looks up, and playing the sound game on the back end that he does. If the folks making the decision on the top 10 list want an offensive defender that is able to setup a lot of his team, he would be our suggestion.

Tobias Fladeby*

The senior forward from Norway has been one of the biggest reasons why Eric Lang’s team is in a good spot for at large consideration. He plays with speed of a scoring forward, but is also able to track back quite well, and plays on a good line featuring Chris Theodore among others. In only 13 games played, he already has nine goals. If you have not seen him, his play has some elements of Caulfield’s to it. That is, he plays with consistent speed, and generates a strong attack for his team, and is relentless to play against. His consistency on the first line has made players like Kapcheck better, and given Kapcheck’s consideration for the award, combined with Fladeby’s hard work, some notation of his work here is needed, if AIC makes a run to the Frozen Four, we suspect Kapcheck and Fladeby will be big parts of it.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

“We’re Fine”: Army West Point’s hard work rewarded with 3-2 OT win over Bentley

Brian Riley’s Army West Point team started out with a less than ideal shift against a fast and physical Bentley team. Despite starting out on defense early on, and trailing the Falcons of Bentley 2-0, he knew how his team was playing.

As he said “I told our guys after the first period, we’re fine… we’ve been in this situation a lot.” that is, Riley’s group knows how to keep pressing forward in their nightly battles to win each game, even when the opponent starts strong early on. Tonight, Bentley was being outplayed by Army, but holding a 2-0 lead through most of the first two periods.

That changed when Eric Butte added to his goal streak an scored another goal late in the second on a one-time shot from a superb Lincoln Hatten pass. Army went to the third period trailing only by one, but with all of the momentum on their side.

In the third period, things slowed down a bit, and Army benefited from the wonderful view of their Operations Director, Kris Horn. He told Coach Riley to challenge a non call on a Luke Santerno check to the head. For his keen eye, Riley suggested giving Horn the game puck, and it was well deserved. The review changed the course of the game for both teams. It was lengthy, but proved Horn right. Santerno went to the locker room, and soon after that, Bentley took more penalties to give the Black Knights plenty of time with the extra skater. The Falcons nearly got out of that first penalty fracas unscathed, but Colin Bilek was able to barely find the back of the net on a call that again went Army’s way on review. His eleventh goal tied things up, and was the toughest of his four shots on net. He had so many good looks throughout the evening, and kept working hard to get the equalizer. Bilek is second in the country in Hobey Baker Award fan voting.

In the overtime frame, Daniel Haider provided the game winner on a long shift. Riley noted Haider’s skill in finding the shot and not missing, and praised him as another one of the good goal scorers on this team.

What does tonight mean?

Well, Riley and his staff know that to keep things going, they need to keep accumulating wins, and Bentley looks to come into Tate Rink ready to spoil the resume of Army for an at-large bid. For teams getting together and playing the right way at the right time, arguably one of the best teams this year, in terms of improvement is Army West Point. How they finish these last few weeks determines what they need out of the postseason to make the tournament. The more they win, the better their resume, and if ever there was a year to give Atlantic Hockey three teams in the NCAA Tournament, Riley’s team is making a case to make this the year.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

A simple adjustment spurs Army to a series sweep: Beyond the Box Score

Brian Riley, throughout his decades of being a coach, and in his 17 years leading Army West Point knows when to rely on his assistants. Tonight, he gave credit to Associate Coach Zach McKelvie for a tweak in overtime on the power play. He adjusted things to put Eric Butte on the power play unit that scored, and the unit executed things to perfection. Butte, now with three goals in his past two games tipped home the game winner to give the Black Knights another win on their ascent up the Atlantic Hockey standings with a 2-1 overtime victory over Sacred Heart.

Riley succinctly said of the switch, “that’s how he drew it up.” On the goal scorer, he credits Eric for putting himself in that position where McKelvie thought to use him in the extra frame. Butte himself is an example in how a goal scorer will find his way to putting the puck in the back of the net with hard work, as he has put in during his time at the Academy. As Riley said, “he’s been working extremely hard.” When Butte broke out of his scoring drought last night, with a two goal game Riley expected more to come soon. Well, soon meant the next game for Eric Butte, and the Black Knights now have multiple options each night on all of their lines. This is in addition to their stalwart defense that has improved. Their penalty kill is on the ascent, as tonight it was perfect, putting as many shots on net shorthanded as they gave up (one each way).

To open things up, Lincoln Hatten put an off angle shot past Sacred Heart netminder Devin Lush. It was a move that surprised everyone but Hatten as he tucked the puck past Lush who was playing a bit further out in his crease, leaving the tiniest oopening avaialble. Hatten took advantage of it for his fourth goal of the season. The freshman is proving that he has the potential to be a leader for Army West Point Hockey down the road, and for now, he provides a lot of speed in the top scoring group of forwards for Riley, and a nose for the net.

Last night, on potential adjustments, we asked Riley about what his staff would emphasize, and he said the neutral zone play would be top of mind heading into this one. Throughout most of the night the Black Knights stymied one of the faster teams in Atlantic Hockey and forced tougher entries, or outright dump ins, which helped Army better get into their forecheck more often. Finally, Trevin Kozlowski kept things hemmed up in net, stopping 21 of 22 pucks on the evening to make life easier for the forwards in a game that featured a goaltending duel throughout.

Heading into Army’s next series against a physical Bentley group this weekend, Riley’s biggest focus will be on keeping things simple and giving his players some space to recover. They will reconvene for practice Thursday and shift their focus to fighting for six more Atlantic Hockey points against the Falcons of Bentley. As for the team, while they are burnishing their resume for an at-large bid, Riley is focused on earning a first round bye, and building from there towards the national tournament. As he said, “if you keep winning, everything will take care of itself.”

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Army West Point earns 3-1 win over Sacred Heart: Now What?

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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Brian Riley: Living his dream, helping others at West Point

Brian Riley is another coach in his family following in the footsteps of his father Jack coaching at the United States Military Academy. As he said of his recent win to give the family 1000 wins leading the Black Knights of the United States Military Academy “I know that I’m not a math guy but I know where I sit among them.” That is, in his ultimate humility, he recognizes that he still has a way to go to be the most winningest Riley, and some more work to do just to pass his brother Rob, his predecessor at West Point . Brian has been the leader of this program since 2004, and has been a constant leader on a campus with centuries of developing them.

`When Brian knew he wanted to be a coach, his dad Jack gave him the most important piece of advice that he carries with him, and instills as a philosophy in his staff and team at-large. Jack said, “Bri make sure show your players that you care for them more as people than as hockey players” That is Brian’s guiding star for coaching. Jack’s advice still rings true for Brian today. In all of his years coaching at West Point, he most cherishes the relationships he and his family have built with former players, assistants, and all of the unsung heroes that have made hockey at West Point reach a continued level of success, not only in on ice play, but in developing leaders of character that go on to lead the sons and daughters of America around the world.

A perfect example of the relationships Riley has throughout the hockey world sits on his bench as an associate head coach. When Zach McKelvie was playing for Riley, he had interest from the Boston Bruins. Former General Manager Peter Chiarelli, and his former assistant, Jim Benning, went to West Point and talked to Riley about him, and wanted to sign him upon completion of his senior year, to begin play right away. At the time, back in 2009 that was not possible, as Mckelvie had two years of active service to complete.

The Bruins waited two years for McKelvie, who completed his active duty requirements during that time. The ability of Riley to build that relationship, and of Zach to stay ready in those two years was impressive to see, to say the least. Now, Riley is thankful for the rise of the World Class Athlete Program, now common at all three Division One service academies. As every hockey player wants to play in the NHL, Riley realizes that this program allows him to expand his pitch to more servant leaders that are looking to play hockey professionally. He said, “it gives us the opportunity to tell young men that you can come to West Point and live that dream.”

In effect, this program allows athletes to sign professional contracts and fulfill their obligations where they sign, or delay them until their time playing professional hockey is done within some limits. West Point now has multiple graduates in this program, playing professional hockey in North America, including goaltender Parker Gahagen with the Colorado Eagles, and former captain Dominic Franco with the Rochester Americans.

The relationships built by Riley as part of his family’s decades of coaching in this game are consistently, for Brian, centered around West Point. He is living his dream every day coaching the Black Knights. When his dad, Jack, retired he said” I haven’t worked a day in 36 years.” Brian gets that and feels the same way. As he said, “personally for me I pinch myself that I am the head coach at West Point.” He did not realize it at the time he assumed the role in 2004, but Riley made clear that he is indeed at his dream job.

During his time coaching the game, Riley has built a relationship with so many of his colleagues, they extend far beyond on-ice competition. For example, when Riley’s father Jack passed away five years ago, Air Force Academy Coach Frank Serratore came across the country to be in the Cape Cod church where the funeral was held.

This special rivalry and relationship  Riley has with Serratore and Air Force is a thing to behold. Frank has let Riley address his players before games at times, and while the competition is fierce, the respect is even stronger. Riley notes that his and Serratore’s personality could not be more different, but values what Frank brings to this great game. He also praised the work Frank has done in representing Atlantic Hockey well when the Falcons have made the NCAA Tournament. Air Force was the first Atlantic Hockey team in a two year stretch to knock off the number one team in the tournament. Both times, Air Force, and then AIC beat St. Cloud State.

As Brian says of the Army-Air Force rivalry,  “ We try to beat the hell out of each other for 120 minutes, then we salute the fans together and line up shoulder to shoulder, seniors line up on the red line, everyone else lines up behind them. You really see guys that are going to be on the same team.“

Like in building relationships with coaches and players, Riley is one of the best in this game at building rapport with recruits. Due to the inherent limitations of recruiting at West Point, his staff has to, by definition, look at more leagues in this country than the USHL alone. A lot of his recruits come from the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL), especially teams in and around West Point, like the Jersey Hitmen, and South Shore Kings, to name a few.

Of recruiting, Riley says on its difficulty, “if I wanted to make an excuse I could say yes.” As a result of the rules of joining West Point, “When we go into a rink and watch a junior game… our pool is probably smaller than most.”  At West Point he went on to say that, “it’s like an Ivy League [school] regarding academics, and West Point is the preeminent leadership institution in the world.”

Riley looks forward to having on campus visits, in person, resume as that is one undeniable asset he has, allowing recruits to see the premier leadership institution in the world, amongst a beautiful backdrop, and nestled along the Hudson River, in person.

Finally, Riley noted the growth of his players this season, especially his outstanding first year class lead by Lincoln Hatten. He thought that he knew this group would be special, and that, given the demands of the United States Military Academy, the adjustment for rookies can take up to a full year. Hatten and others have come in, and stepped up right away to help the team stay in the hunt. Because of the outstanding rookie class, coupled with the growth of Colin Bilek, and the always erstwhile Trevin Kozlowski leading the way in net, Riley’s Black Knights are close to being in the top three in Atlantic Hockey this year, and because of having Riley at the helm, the Black Knights will all ways be competitive.

More importantly, for Riley, his program is continuing a 70 year tradition of trying to live up to the basic bit of advice passed on to him by Jack. The program at West Point, lead by Riley, still cares more about his hockey players as people than hockey players, and produces leaders that go on to do great things all over the world.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.