Progress (that’s PRO-gress for Canadian readers) is important, that is for certain.
Army head coach Rob Riley wants to make progress with his hockey program, the oldest in the MAAC. And without playing a single game, he sees that progress.
“We’re ahead of where we are last year at this time,” said Riley, entering his 16th season at the helm for the Black Knights. “We have six freshmen in the mix and a group of returning players.
“The returning players went through a tough first half of the year last year and had an exciting second half of the year.”
Depth is the biggest key that Riley wanted to address. Beginning in net and working forward, Riley was able to recruit key players to make his team more competitive.
“I think personnel-wise, we added a little depth with [John] Yaros in goal,” said Riley of the rookie who will join senior Scott Hamilton. “We knew that we wanted two goalies going into the season to give us balance.
“We added [Nichola] Cahill and [Matt] Field on defense. They’ll be able to step right in and play well.”
Those additions allow Riley to move Josh Morino and Joe Carpenter to forward and add the necessary depth up front, improving the look of the team to Riley’s satisfaction.
“On paper we think we’re better than we were last year,” said Riley. “There will be a lot of close games and some parity in the league because the bottom teams are moving closer to the top.”
Those close games will likely be important for Army in the race for home ice. Last season, Army lost a game to Mercyhurst in overtime when the Lakers scored off the faceoff with only one second remaining. Luckily, Army remained one point ahead of AIC for the final playoff spot. Just don’t count on that luck remaining.
“I think you have to emphasize close games,” Riley added. “Almost all of the games in this league will be that way. It comes down to executing late in the game. Last year we lost a game at the last second, but we also won an overtime game against Quinnipiac.”
With depth added, Riley can begin to focus on specific tactical areas that need improvement.
“If you look at the overall stats of the year, you’ll see we need to be better defensively, cut our goals against average and improve our penalty killing,” Riley said. “If you finish near the bottom in those categories, you’re not going to be as successful.”
And certainly, it’s success that Riley is looking for to show some PRO-gress.