SPRINGFIELD, Mass. The Army West Point hockey team defeated AIC, 5-3, in what was a historic night for the program. The victory was the 1,000th win for the Riley family at the helm of the Army hockey program.
“Obviously this is a special night,” Head Coach Brian Riley said. “I know my dad and my brother would both say what an honor and a privilege it is to coach at West Point and be around these cadets. We will never forget this one and I am thinking about my dad and my brother after this win.”
The Riley era of Army hockey started in 1950, when a 30-year old John Patrick “Jack” Riley was named the 14th head coach in program history. One of the titans of American hockey, the International Hockey Hall of Famer led the United States Olympic Hockey team to its first Gold Medal in 1960. As the leader of the Black Knights, he claimed two Spenser Penrose Awards as the top coach in NCAA Division I hockey. 36 seasons and 542 victories later, he handed the keys to the program off to his son, Rob, who guided the Black Knights to 257 victories over 18 seasons. The two remain the winningest father-son duo in college hockey history. Brian Riley, the youngest son of Jack, was named head coach of the Black Knights in 2004 and has led the cadets to 201 victories over the course of his 16-year tenure. Brian himself has been no stranger to coaching accolades, as he boasts three Atlantic Hockey Coach of the Year honors.
The Black Knights and Yellow Jackets met on Sunday for the third time in five days, with Army looking for a bounce-back effort after AIC fought back from a 3-1 deficit in the final three minutes on Thursday to win 4-3 in overtime.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Black Knights offense erupted for four goals in the second period. After Tucker DeYoung and Ricky Lyle gave Army the lead with goals in the first four minutes of the second, Colin Bilek scored two of his three goals on the night to extend the Army lead to 4-1. The junior completed his first-career hat trick with 3:33 remaining in the game to close out a 5-3 win for the Black Knights. Bilek has been red hot for the Black Knights, as he has now scored six goals over the team’s last three games.
“After the way we lost on Thursday, this is the kind of win you look back on when you think of the season as a whole,” Riley said. “This is a real character win for us. The guys were just looking to get back out there and get it done. We were in the same situation as we were on Thursday with a late lead and this is part of learning how to win. We got it done tonight and this is going to help give the guys some confidence.”
Trevin Kozlowski followed his 33-save performance on Thursday with a career-high 37 saves in this one. The senior netminder seemed to get stronger as the game went on, making 15 stops in the final period as AIC turned on the gas in the closing minutes of the game.
“Coming off a heartbreaker like we had on Thursday, we talked as a team about things we can improve on and Coach Riley said there is a lesson to be learned here where we can either teach or get taught. Next time we were in that scenario we needed to use what we learned and get the job done,” Kozlowski said. “As it turns out, we got that chance in the next game we played, and we got the job done against a top 20 team like AIC. This game was like a playoff game for us and we had to stand strong. This was a big deal for us.”
Kozlowski knows the Riley way as much as anyone, as he has spent time on teams with both Brian and Rob Riley.
“Having the opportunity to play under Coach the past three and a half years and having the privilege to be coached in high school and in tournaments under Coach Rob Riley, it’s an honor to be a part of a moment like this for Coach,” Kozlowski said. “It is a pretty surreal thing to be a part of and it is something we could all look back at and tell our families that we were here for this.”
HIGHLIGHTS AND NOTES
- The Riley family earned its 1,000th combined victory at Army.
- Colin Bilek continued his strong week, following his two-goal game on Thursday with his first career hat trick. The junior now has six goals (6-1-7) in the last three games. His four points (3-1-4) were also a career high.
- Trevin Kozlowski made a career-high 37 saves in the contest, with 15 coming in the third period.
- Ricky Lyle netted his first collegiate goal to give Army the lead early in the second period.
- Tucker DeYoung (1-1-2) posted his second multi-point performance of the season.
- After entering the game with just two power-play goals this season, Army’s power play unit erupted for four goals on five opportunities in the game.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- AIC appeared poised to build off the momentum from its comeback victory on Thursday, opening the scoring with Tobias Fladeby’s AHA-leading ninth goal of the season at the 4:02 mark of the first period.
- The Black Knights turned the game around in the second period and caught fire, scoring a season-best four goals in the period.
- Tucker DeYoung tied the game just 42 seconds into the period. Colin Bilek rifled a puck off the post and DeYoung was right there to corral the rebound to even the score.
- Army would take the lead minutes later when John Keranen found freshman Ricky Lyle open in the slot. The rookie fired a wrister home for his first collegiate tally to give the cadets a 2-1 lead.
- A red hot Bilek made his first mark on the game just 40 seconds later, firing home a shot off the face-off to give Army its first power play goal of the night.
- He would find the back of the net for the second time later in the period, when he and Anthony Firriolo broke free on a two-on-one, giving Army a 4-1 lead.
- AIC would get one back on the power play on Zak Galambos’ third of the year.
- AIC fought within one in the opening minutes of the third, when Eric Otto netted his first collegiate goal for the Yellow Jackets.
- With AIC threatening, Trevin Kozlowski made 15 of his career-high 37 saves in the final period.
- Bilek would once again convert on the power play, as he completed the hat trick with his third PPG, giving Army a 5-3 victory.
UP NEXT: Army will head on the road for two matchups with service academy rival Air Force on Jan. 15 and 16.
( West Point Hockey Photo and Story)