Army West Point Hockey loses to Canisius in AHA Semifinals: Brian Riley provides perspective

Photo Credit: Army West Point Athletics

As he often does, Army West Point Hockey Head Coach Brian Riley summed up his team’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Golden Griffins of Canisius College pretty well, thinking in the bigger picture. He said “if this is the worst thing that happens in our lives… then life’s going to be pretty good.” While Riley is of course, incredibly upset that eight of his players, and two cadet-managers have likely participated in their final hockey game as Black Knights, he took the time to talk about this team, and what this year means to him.

First, and most importantly, Riley never loses sight of his own mission, one which he has been a part of for 22 years in some form at Army West Point as either an assistant, or Head Coach, he helps develop leaders to go into the United States Army and lead the sons and daughters of America as members of a team much bigger than what he coaches. He views the lessons learned last night to everyone in his room as invaluable in the long run. As he said. “this is something that will help prepare these guys for their next job.. being officers in the United States Army.”

Keep in mind for the senior class that battled again last night, they do not get the extra year option that all other civilian schools playing Division One Hockey have due to the extra year of eligibility being given due to the structure of the Service Academies. Cadets are on a 47 month journey from civilian to Second Lieutenant. That journey does not pause, or allow for an extra year to play your sport, regardless of circumstances.

Riley has mentioned that this senior class has left the program in a better place than they found it, and regardless of if their last game was played last night, or not, that is true. This class of seniors, combined with emergent rookies put this team on a 13 game unbeaten streak that got them within one bounce in overtime of playing for the Jack Riley Memorial Trophy, given the the Atlantic Hockey Tournament’s victor. The goal of the program every year remains to win the conference and make the NCAA Tournament. They did not win their pod, but they improved to be second behind AIC. This group of seniors lead a rookie class and a program through a pandemic-marred season, finished the regular season and first round of their playoffs on a remarkable run heading into the semifinals, and set everyone else in the program up to rise further, including one day making the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

As a senior class, this group will know that their last memory of hockey at Tate Rink came with a triple overtime win over Sacred Heart in the longest game in their program’s history. The leadership this group showed through the face of adversity will prepare all of them for their service, and may be another building block towards an NCAA selection one day. That is something that no result, no cruel bounce, and no selection process can take away from them.

(Note: This article is focusing on the historic effort put forward by the Black Knights of Army West Point, and the positives in this historic season for Brian Riley’s group… in a year of uncertainty with how the Selection Committee will choose the field of 16 teams for the NCAA Tournament, we will leave any thoughts on the bracket to be put up on this site until after all conference championship games are played.)

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An Interview with Margot Miller on the Impact of UND Women’s Hockey

We recently had the chance to talk to Margot Miller, an alumnus of the UND Women’s Hockey program. We started doing these interviews because we want to focus more on the impact of the program off the ice as Women’s Hockey is part of the recent round of athletics cuts at UND.

While we both understand the harsh reality of budgets and deficits, we feel it is important to know what the University is losing from its campus. The best way to show what this University is giving up on, from our vantage point, is by providing an outlet for everyone who has ever played for, or been associated with the program to have a place to speak out about how this severe cut will deny opportunities to not only on-ice stars, but to the next Scholar-Athlete who could use their education at UND to make the world a better place like Margot is doing on a daily basis.

Below are our questions and her answers.

What was the most useful thing you learned about yourself while being apart of the UND athletics program?

“Playing hockey at a high level has provided me with so many learning experiences and positives attributes. The most useful thing I learned about myself and now translating into my everyday life is how to handle pressure and being a good team player. I am an ER nurse, which requires me to work under extreme pressure and make quick decisions. Another huge aspect of nursing is being able to work in a team setting, being able to be a team player has helped me succeed in my life after UND athletics as a nurse.”

Do you think you would be the same person you are today if you would not have attended UND and played hockey?

“No, absolutely not. UND and Hockey has shaped me into the person I am today. I never thought I would have stayed in Grand Forks after graduation but I fell in love with the community and UND which is so supportive and tight knit. UND and Hockey have created so many opportunities for me professionally and I will forever be grateful for what UND has provided me along with the sport of hockey. Many others should have a chance at what I had.”

How do you think you have inspired other young girls to play hockey?

“Playing at the best facility in college hockey at the highest level was a dream for me and I hope that inspires young girls to dream big. Continuing to be active in the Grand Forks hockey community as well as outreach efforts to better girls hockey in our community.”

What was your favorite on ice memory at UND?

“I have several. Clinching our first WCHA final face-off birth against Bemidji in dramatic fashion in OT at Purpur arena. Sweeping the Gophers in Ridder. Making history when we made it to the NCAA tournament in 2012 my senior year.”

What do you try to teach the players you coach now?

To be a good person no matter the circumstances. At times I catch myself using the same phrases or teaching points my UND coaches taught me. To leave it all out on the ice and have no regrets. I try to prepare my players not only with hockey skills but the skills to succeed in life and in their professional careers.”

What is your favorite thing about hockey as a whole ?

“Being apart of something bigger than myself. ”

What has been your best memory with any of your teammates since you have graduated?

“I currently serve as the assistant coach for the Grand Forks KnightRiders Girls Varsity hockey team. Our team went into the state tournament in 6th place this season. The girls left it all out on the ice and we ended up finishing in 2nd place. The best part of it all was coaching alongside my former teammate Tori Williams.”