The men’s program will begin competition in 2018-19, giving Riley a full year of recruiting in order to prepare the program for its first season of NCAA Division III play.
“I would like to thank Wilkes University, athletic director Addy Malatesta, associate athletic director Phil Wingert and the search committee for selecting me to be their first men’s ice hockey coach,” said Riley in a news release. “It is an honor and privilege to join the Wilkes community and athletic department. Having the opportunity to build a college ice hockey program will be an exciting challenge, and one that I am ready for. Wilkes has all the resources in place to accommodate a successful NCAA ice hockey program. President Leahy and the university have made a large commitment to building the athletic programs at Wilkes and after visiting, I left extremely impressed by the facilities, academic offerings, support of the athletic department and most importantly, the people.”
Riley comes to Wilkes after a successful stint as the head coach of the varsity hockey program at the Albany Academy. At Albany, Riley instilled an exceptional record of positive coaching while building a winning varsity hockey team. As the youngest head coach in NEPSAC hockey, Riley’s teams reached historic records within three years. Through an innovative, energetic style, the program elevated from a seven-win season in 2013 placing 46th of 63 teams, to the NEPSAC Large School runner-up in 2017.
“Brett has exactly what it takes to be successful as our first men’s hockey coach – he is focused on the academic experience, competitive, entrepreneurial, and fluent in all things hockey and he brings with him a great family legacy in the sport,” added Wilkes VP for student affairs Dr. Paul Adams.
Riley also founded and maintained operations of GEN3 Hockey, an elite youth hockey program dedicated to teaching, motivating and improving the hockey experience of young athletes. The program includes on- and off-ice coaching and training and has grown from three teams and 70 players in 2010 to 42 teams and 855 players to date. It has also developed 12 NHL draft picks.
Riley has also served as a player consultant at GDA Hockey where he expertly identified high-level NCAA prospects and built relations in the New England area.
“It is my goal to recruit first-class young men that will bring leadership to the Wilkes community academically, athletically and within the campus,” explained Riley. “We will create a culture of excellence, both on and off the ice and the first recruiting class will set a high benchmark for years to come. Winning for us as a program will not simply be defined through on ice success, but also scholastic achievement and leadership throughout the Wilkes campus. Wilkes University will be an attractive destination because of the many academic offerings, beautiful campus, first class facilities and supporting community.”
Riley is no stranger to the rink as a third generation hockey coach. His father, Rob, served as head coach at Army for 19 years and is currently an amateur scout for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Jack Riley, Brett’s grandfather, coached at West Point for more than 35 years, after coaching the United States to the gold medal at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics. He also played for the U.S. Olympic team at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics.
“Coaching hockey has always been my dream and passion,” said Riley.
Both Wilkes ice hockey teams will call the Toyota SportsPlex at Coal Street Park home for practices and games.
“We are so fortunate to have the partnership with Jeff Barrett and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins,” added Riley. “To be sharing the facility with one of the most successful professional organizations in any sport will be exciting for our student-athletes, and help the growth of this program. Playing out of the Toyota Sportsplex will be a major draw to recruits and it further enhances the appeal of the Wilkes hockey program.”
Riley earned his Bachelor’s degree in History from Hobart in 2014 where he was a three-time ECAC West All-Academic Team selection during his four-year career.