Welcome to the newest weekly segment from NYI Hockey Now: Coaches Corner with Long Island University head coach Brett Riley.
Last weekend the Sharks fell 1-0 to RPI. This week marks the final road game before the Shark’s home opener against Omaha, Nebraska, on Oct. 28th. LIU is scheduled to face off against the Michigan State Spartans on Friday and Saturday night.
Q: Hard-fought battle last weekend against RPI (1-0 Loss). What were your takeaways?
“We played really well. It stings for it to be decided kind of in the way it did off a fluky goal, but that’s the game. But I’m very pleased with the way we played and the way we battled. For reference, you know, we lost seven to two in that rink last year, similar to losing five nothing and six to one Quinnipiac and Northeastern, so no moral victories, but we do like to chart and track progress, and that certainly exemplified it. You know, another very, very competitive hockey game.”
Q: What made you guys want to fly out two days before your upcoming games against Michigan State?
“It was just something kind of nice to do. I think for the guys, we did so many bus trips last year, like we took a bus to Notre Dame, we took a bus to Miami. So to come out here two days earlier is just kind of a nice thing to do for these guys. Of our 50 games as a program, I think we’ve played 40 on the road, right around 80%. So you know, it’s nice to, I don’t want to say reward these guys, but treat them right.”
Q: Anthony Vincent has been solid so far. Where do you attribute his success?
“Another coach, actually, kind of that had coached against him for four years at a competing school, you know, asked me how I was doing. I said really well, and I think he put it best when he said he plays every game, every shift, like it’s his last. He’s a relentless worker, he’s super competitive, and I think that quote kind of epitomizes who Anthony is. He doesn’t take a shift a minute a day off. So he leads by example, to say the least.”
Q: With Vinnie Purpura starting all four games so far in the net, what can we expect goalie-wise this weekend?
“We always take it day by day. But he [Purpura] is playing really good hockey. So he’ll definitely have another opportunity in front of them here. Like I said in the past, Brandon Perrone has been excellent in practice and really pushing the goalie culture as a whole. So the goaltending position is in a great spot right now.”
Q: Vinnie has been great so far, 13th in the nation in GAA. Why do you think this has been a breakout season so far for Vincent?
“I think, in short, he put in the work to be successful. He came back in unbelievable shape, and you know, year one kind of coming from BU not knowing what to expect, year two kind of rotating and splitting time to kind of being deemed the guy, so to speak. His confidence is through the roof. He’s trusting in his training again, he came back in unbelievable shape, which told us all we needed to know, and he’s super focused. He’s the first into the rink. He takes care of his body. He’s practicing better than ever. So I think it’s just kind of a contagious confidence that he has right now, and it’s very exciting to see, and his save percentage is phenomenal, and it’s been against some of the best teams and players in college hockey, too, so that’s no small feat.”
Q: You have one of the best scoring defenses in the nation right now, tied for seventh in the nation with Minnesota state. What has been working for your defense?
“I just think the six that have played and the three that haven’t played, for that matter, are similar to Anthony. They’re relentless competitors. They don’t take a shift off. They’re willing to sacrifice the body, whether it be blocking a shot, finishing a hit, or playing through a guy. They focus on just being sound defenders, which is just kind of a staple of our identity, and then adding offense as we go, hopefully here… But the D core has been great. What’s exciting, too, is we’ve only got one senior in that group in Austin Rook who has been phenomenal, but you’ve got five guys that will be in sharks jerseys for a long time here, and you know a few out of the lineup that are making great cases as well. “
Q: MSU this weekend, what stands out to you about their program?
“Another very good team. I think we’ll say that a lot this year. The schedule certainly doesn’t get easier, as crazy as that sounds. But they are a good team. They look to be very good in transition. They have a new coaching staff that has done and will do a very good job. So they will get them playing the right way, and there seems to be a certain level of buy-in from their team right now. So no game is easy. As I said, our schedule is only getting tougher with this stretch. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Omaha in the coming weeks here, so it’s a good challenge, and it’s going to make our program better. All these games we played last year have strengthened us for this year, and I expect it to be no different.”
Q: Having a former Spartan in Adam Goodsir on your side now, has that helped with the prep for this upcoming weekend at all?
“No, not really. He’s just got an obligation to go out and play a good game. I think those games can be tough for kids sometimes when there’s so much emotion and history. You know, it’s obviously very exciting for him to come back home. But at the end of the day, he’s just got to play and continue to do what he’s doing. So we’re just letting them play and enjoy his time back here, and it will be a special weekend for him for sure.”