Army West Point Hockey welcomes new cadets,remembers seniors, and prepares for a more normal season: Read more

Army West Point Head Ice Hockey Coach Brian Riley remembers every year he is fortunate to live his dream job as Head Coach of the Black Knights. Last year, amidst a broken stick he continued to use in practice, his group finished the season going unbeaten in their last 13 games before their hard fought battle with Canisius in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals where Riley’s group did everything but win the game. The stick was broken, but Army went on the streak, and Riley is famous in this game for not changing things when his team goes on long winning streaks.

When the season ended, the departing seniors, signed the broken stick. Riley now has it hung in his office as a reminder of the special group that gave everything to Army Hockey over their 47 month time in West Point.

Now he is ready for the season ahead. The full Army West Point schedule should be released soon, but Riley did confirm that the Black Knights will resume the one of the longest international rivalry series with Royal Millitary College which will occur in January of 2022. The Black Knights will be tested, as they always are in the perenially tough Atlantic Hockey Association.

One thing that will be different for his group this year, no more COVID 19 protocols. Why? Riley said that “Im pretty sure that our whole team has been fully vaccinated.” Players that have been vaccinated fully do not have to participate in three times per week tests, nor do they need to quarantine upon close contacts. The team got vaccinated because they wanted to,and those coming back to West Point are excited for the season ahead at Tate Rink.

On to the summer, this week the nine recruits coming to West Point took their first steps as New Cadets reporting for Cadet Basic Training. This rigorous process quickly acclimates incoming first year cadets, or plebes, to the realities of millitary life, and ensures they start their first year ready for the many challenges ahead of them in their 47 month experience on post.

In the first week, the new recruits have had one night at Tate Rink all together, and they will get to, in groups, or all together, get to visit the rink they will be playing on during the rigorous Cadet Basic Training to talk with coaches and get to bond with their new teammates and skate. For the first part of Cadet Basic Training, they will see some familiar faces as leaders, as Daniel Haider, Anthony Firriolo, and Patrick Smyth are part of the leadership group in Cadet Basic Training. Smyth is expected to make a return to the lineup this season, and the power forward will provide some physical depth to the group this year, As Riley said of the his goal for the new cadets during this time, it is ” For me to get them up to the rink its more for them to relax and jump out on the ice.” Every single season, the new cadets bond pretty quickly with one another, despite the fact that many of them have faced each other in the junior hockey ranks. As Riley said “I’m always amazed with how as a group they’ve bonded together off the ice.”

Going forward, the Black Knights return the leading goal scorer from last season nationwide in Colin Bilek. If he reprises anywhere close to his 2020-2021 campaign, he will have plenty of pro interest following the season as an undrafted free agent ready to play in the NHL. The Black Knights have depth in their forward group this season, but will have some questions with their defense group, and in net. The goaltenders jockeying to fill the spot left by the graduation and commissioning of All American Trevin Kozlowski have played a combined three and a half games. Riley is ready to see how each of them compete and help each other get better as a group. As he said of the challenges ahead “this is what makes coaching fun… every year is different.”

He also took the time to praise the work of his coaching staff, and all of those who work to make Army Hockey what it is today, especially its play by play announcer, Nikolai Busko. His deep knowledge of the game and his passionate and respectful style is always fun to listen to, and his voice will always resonate in the lore of Army Hockey as narrating some of its biggest moments.

As Riley said of Nikolai “what a passion he has not only for Army Hockey and Army sports, but for college hockey, and we are very fortunate to have him doing our games.” He also singled out for praise his director of Hockey Operations, Kris Horn, saying that ” he’s one of those guys that never gets accolades but just does so much behind the scenes… he’s on top of things. ”

From welcoming the nine members of his new plebe class, to preparing for the first full season his team will have since 2019-2020, Riley has a lot on his plate, along with his staff. For now, he is anxious for August, and to see his full team back together, ready to make a run at this program’s first NCAA tournament trip, and more beyond that.

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Hunter McCoy playing for Army West Point: “A no brainer”

Photo Credit: Credit: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

To get admitted in to West Point, and be an officer in the Army, you need to appreciate structure, and do things with a purpose of service, among several other things. Hunter McCoy has those traits. The former Maryland Black Bear committed to West Point a bit later in his recruiting journey, and brings a structured game to Brian Riley’s group. The six foot tall power forward is adept at driving the net, and killing penalties among several other things. Wherever he played for the Black Bears he was noticeable at driving the pace of play and in making smart decisions under pressure, another key component of an Army Officer.

When Associate Head Coach Zach McKelvie and the Army staff saw that Hunter was no longer heading to Brown University, the fit became obvious pretty quickly. As Zack said ” We have had our eye on Hunter for several years, as far back when he was playing in the NCDC and have always liked his game. At the start of the year he was a guy that we were targeting but he came off the board pretty quick so when he became available the second half of the year we felt he was a no brainer for our team.” As McCoy said of the staff ” they have the same goals I do. Hunter also praised how transparent and communicative all of them have been with him and his family. Hunter is a power forward with a good release, and is expected to compete for penalty kill time right away. Over time he could grow into a top six power forward with the ability to help out in any spot on the ice, at any time.

McCoy will report to Cadet Basic Training on Sunday, June 27th, ready to take his first steps in the Army, and as part of the Class of 2025. For Riley’s team, this class coming in will be a big one to fill the large shoes left by his eight departing seniors. One thing McCoy will miss during his time in Cadet Basic Training, where he is looking forward to adapting to the structure of West Point, and learning what it takes to be in the United States Army, is his dad’s steak tips. When asked what his last meal would be, he picked it without hesitation, and had his dad ship them frozen to him all over North America, regardless of where his junior hockey career took him. With stops in the USPHL, BCHL, and finally with the NAHL, those steak tips have gone quite a distance.

As for McCoy himself, he models his game similar to Charlie Coyle. He is a plucky forward that knows how to walk the edge between playing a tight checking game, while playing with the needed discipline. As for why he chose West Point, he said “for me West Point is known to be one of the best colleges in the country, and “its always been important to me and I’ve wanted to serve my country. ” Despite being in Cadet Basic Training for six weeks, McCoy is not worried, while he will train at the highest level he also added on getting a few weeks off the rink after his long season just ended “I actually think it will be good to get off the ice for a little bit.” When he talked with program alums, and the staff he noted a common theme of why those who talked to him came to West Point. He said ” they (program representatives) all say you’re set for life.” In addition, Hunter wants to lead and help others, and this program and how it develops people to lead in the Army seem to be an ideal fit for Hunter both on and off the ice. Academically,McCoy, for now, has interests in business and economics but is open to taking advantages of the unique academic offerings of one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

McCoy knows what Army Hockey means, and mentioned the fact that he hails from Newburyport Massachusetts, the same home town as Derek Hines. As Zach McKelvie said of Hunter’s maturity “He’s a great person and comes from a great family. Mature beyond his years so we feel the transition to West Point will be smooth for him. He will fit in very well with our group and it wouldn’t surprise anyone here if he wears a letter one day here.” Hunter knows he will need to get up to the speed of the Division One game quickly, and has every confidence in his ability, and the tutelage of the staff and program itself to help him get there.

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