MIH: Riley accepts job offer after tremendous inaugural season


Kirsten Peters

Head coach Brett Riley (pictured above) will depart Wilkes University and begin an assistant coaching job at Colgate University for the 2019-2020 season.

With only one season in the books, the men’s ice hockey team is losing one of its greatest assests: head coach Brett Riley.

Following a record-setting first season, Riley has accepted a position as an assistant coach at Colgate University, a Division I organization.

After earning a winning record of 16-8-2 this past winter, Riley demonstrated his coaching abilities in bringing together the first string of players to ever represent Wilkes University on the ice.

Riley began his coaching duties long before his players made it to campus and onto the rink, solidifying the top ranked recruiting class in the country. In their inaugural season, the team shattered expectations and even received votes to be ranked as one of the top 15 teams in the country throughout the Division II and Division III landscape.

As a result of Wilkes’ successful season under Riley’s leadership, the Colonel players had nothing negative to say about their now former head coach’s depature.

“It shows a lot about what our program has done,” said Tyler Barrow, sophomore forward and reigning USCHO (United States College Hockey Organization) Division III rookie of the year. “Coach Riley has the opportunity to coach at the Division I level after just one year.”

In addition to Barrow’s standpoint as a player, Wilkes assistant coach Tyler Hynes offered his perspective as a coach alongside Riley.

“You don’t replace someone like (Riley),” Hynes said. “Everyone is going to need to pick-up some of the slack a little bit more. But after speaking with the players, I think everyone is ready to do that.”

The players and Hynes were able to benefit from Riley’s season in command.

Riley’s one season at Wilkes set a standard for the Colonels, as the team quickly earned a reputation for being a tough competitor to beat. Wilkes snagged at least one win against every United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC) opponent, except for Elmira and Utica.

On the ice, Wilkes showcased three of the nation’s most productive freshmen. Forwards Donald Flynn, Barrow and Nick Fea all finished with more than 1.2 points per game.

Similarly, forward Phil Erickson and defensemen Michael Gurska and Dylan Kuipers all proved to be standouts in their first year as well.

Considering the men’s ice hockey program was comprised mostly of freshmen for its inaugural season, Riley helped the players develop and demonstrate tremendous growth over the course of 26 games.

Not only was the experience educational for the young players, but Hynes expressed his gratitude for being able to coach alongside Riley and gain valuable expertise.

“It was a tremendous learning experience for me,” Hynes said. “Going in, I knew that I wanted to soak everything up like a sponge because (Riley) is full of knowledge. He gave me lots of tasks and responsibilities that I felt fortunate to have as an assistant coach.”

Riley will be missed by Hynes and his players. However, the Colonels have noted that the new mantra is to come together and move forward for their next season.

“The team is taking the news and moving forward with it,” Barrow said. “We believe in our staff and their ability to get the job done, and we will move forward going into the season.”

Despite the loss of Riley in the driver’s seat, the players and the Wilkes coaching staff have to remain optimistic for the future.

“We are going to use this as a call to come together and not to fall apart,” Hynes said. “We all had a good experience last year, but this program wasn’t built just for year one. It was set up to continue into years two and three and forward into the foreseeable future.”

Even without Riley, the foundation has been laid for the program and will allow for growth in the seasons to come.

Noting the youthfulness of the Colonels’ roster, Wilkes will retain all of their players from last season, as there were no seniors who graduated and left the team. Heading into the upcoming season, there will be three seniors with the opportunity to step into a position of leadership and command for Wilkes’ second season on the ice.

“We have an established infrastructure here,” Hynes said. “We all know what the expectation is.”

Riley declined to comment on his depature from Wilkes’ ice hockey program.

On July 9, it was announced that assistant coach Tyler Hynes would be taking the head coach role. Information on the new coach will be avaliable in the Beacon in September.