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Coach’s Corner with Brett Riley: Tough Weekend in Wisconsin, ‘They Deserve Better Here’

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LIU Sharks, Brett Riley

East Meadow, NY- Welcome to the newest weekly segment from NYI Hockey Now: Coach’s Corner with Long Island University head coach Brett Riley.

Every week Joshua Linsenberg will catch up with Brett Riley for an in-depth conversation on the state of the Sharks.

Last weekend, the LIU Sharks were swept in a two-game series at the University of Wisconsin, but they didn’t go down without a fight, keeping it a one-goal game Friday while taking the Badgers to overtime on Saturday. Long Island will head on the road one more time this Saturday to play Assumption University in Worcester, MA, before they begin an eight-game home stand starting on Black Friday with Ohio State coming to town.

Q: Thoughts and takeaways from the Wisconsin series?

“Again, a lot of really positive signs. The second game was really nice too, for a lot of reasons. That was the first time we kind of threw the first punch scoring two goals in the first period when we could have been down or out after a tough way to end the night before. Another positive was Brandon Perrone going in there and go stopping 20 for 21 until an unfortunate injury. We also had Josh Zary, Gustav Müeller, and Austin Brimmer coming in from the stands and all producing and getting on the scoresheet. So that’s the sign of a good culture when other guys can chip in and 55 block shots on the weekend is damn near unheard of. That’s a commitment to wanting to sacrifice and be team first, and again there are a lot of positives. I feel awful for the guys because, at some point, I think they deserve better here. But we just have to find ways to change that result, but that is about as bad as it stung last weekend.”

Q: With Brandon Perrone exiting the game last weekend, watching him here today in practice, he seems to be having trouble sliding each way. Where do you think his status is at?

“We’re just seeing if he can get back to full health here. I mean, he was great in relief against Omaha, and he was great the other night, so his stock is quickly rising. We know he’s been a tremendous teammate. We know he’s been a pretty good goalie, and it was exciting to see him get his time too. But he worked so hard in practice, he competes, and he’s a team-first guy… So I’m really happy for some momentum for him, and  the goalie culture and the battle is stronger than ever.”

Q: We know Vinnie Purpura has had a lot of time in the net, plus his injury against Omaha. How’s he looking?

“He’s back to full health. He gave us a great effort on night one and a chance to win. I think he was around the 90-save percentage on night one and then night two was kind of tough for him…ike the first time this year he mentally had, I don’t want to say, a night off but not the pressure on him to go in and make X amount of saves. So next thing you know, he’s back in the net, and he’s been awesome for us all year, and he’s back to full health, and Brandon’s getting there too. Jan Škorpík is making really good strides as well. This will be the first weekend that he will dress, I’m not gonna say start, but he’ll be in the mix and is coming on the trip with us.

Q: Last road game before your biggest home stand this season, what’s the vibe in the locker room?

“Despite our record, this has been one of the most fun teams I’ve ever coached or been a part of. The character is through the roof, The culture is really strong. I think that’s six games now we’ve played against top 20 opponents. So the strength of the schedule is tough, but we have to keep perspective a little bit. It’s disappointing, we couldn’t find a way to win one, but the guys did everything they could, so morale is high. Obviously, not through the roof given the outcome, but guys are showing up with a good attitude, ready to work.”

Q: Getting ready for Assumption now, where does the focus shift to?

“Putting pucks in the back of the net. We had a few missed breakaways, and a few missed backdoor plays, and that’s the difference between winning and losing. We know we’re going to block shots. We know we’re going to compete, we know we’ll probably get good goaltending. It’s now the difference. There are some guys that have been recruited here or been here for a while that we expect to produce that haven’t as much as they would like or I would like, and we’re going to work to change that and fight through the pain here.”

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