Sports Union November 2016 - Page 21

sucheuets. It just goes together. But it wasn’t for Riley, at least not to play hockey. He wanted to forge his own path, his own identity. He wanted to show he could succeed outside of the hallowed walls of the United States Military Academy. That’s where Mercyhurst College comes in. From spending time with the Army hockey team growing up, Riley was able to watch every team in Atlantic Hockey. Think of it as unofficial recruiting trips. He could watch how teams played night in and night out, year after year. Mercyhurst always grabbed his attention. They seemed to always be at the top of the division in Atlantic Hockey, fighting for an NCAA tournament birth. They played a brand of hockey that he felt would fit him well. 
When he finally was able to get to the campus he fell it love it. He knew Mercyhurst was the school for him. “Growing up I was able to watch my dad’s team play a lot,” stated Riley. “Mercyhurst was in the same league. I got to know Mercyhurst pretty well. The coaches pretty well. I knew that they were also a good team, that they finished at the top of conference. In the back of my mind when it came to choosing colleges I always thought Mercyhurst was going to be a good fit for me. When I came here and visited, I knew it was the place for me.” Being able to make his own decision on school was important to him. His parents weren’t the kind that pressured their kids into doing anything. His dad didn’t even pressure his sons to play hockey. Hockey was in the blood, just like West Point. But there was no pressure to go to the academy. There was no pressure to play for his father. His family just wanted the best for him. “My dad was even big on not pressuring me to play hockey,” stated Riley. “I think growing up around the game that I just fell in love with it. I tell everyone that Army was my favorite team, and they still are my favorite team, just not when we play against them. I don’t think I felt any pressure to play at West Point. At Mercyhurst he is forging his own identity, but West Point is always in the back of his mind. How can it not be when they the Lakers play the Black Knights every year. When Army drives down to Erie it may not be that big of a deal. It’s just a normal game on the schedule. It’s different, however, when the Lakers make the trek up the I90 to West Point, NY. It’s a homecoming. It’s place where Riley grew up. It’s a place where he still helps out with his dad’s hockey camp. It’s place where he learned to skate. A rink that is so familiar to him that the ice is second nature to him. But, that first journey back home was different. He wasn’t siting in the home locker room. The well wishes he gets from everyone at the rink are nice, but not the same. He is now sitting in the vistors locker room. Putting on the green and blue, think Hartford Whalers’ colors, of the Mercyhurst Lakers. He doesn’t know what to expect. How he is going to feel. This is all knew to him. He knows he will get some cheering when his name is announced to the crowd. But now he is the opposition. They like to see the local boy make good, just not against their team. His dad is standing across from him behind the Army bench. It’s a surreal moment – one that someday could have a holiday script. His first game was a huge success. He went for four points and helped the Lakers earn a victory of his childhood team, his dad’s team. Hollywood couldn’t have written it better, or maybe they will. “Honestly, the first time it happen it was pretty weird,” explained Riley. “Not to just play again my dad, but to play in the rink that I grew up in – and to sit on the away bench. I grew up playing in that rink so I was always on the home bench. I always had my family in the stands. So, it was kind of cool to go back, but at the same time is was weird to see my dad on the other side and playing against my favorite team. At the same time I am just thankful for the opportunity that I got to play in the rink that I grew up in. I know a lot of people aren’t afforded that opportunity.” This season the meeting at West Point will be even more special. Jack will be joined by his little brother, Brenden, as he is a freshman on the team. A tradition at West Point is now going down the 90 to Erie. This will be the first time the NOVEMBER 2016 | SportsUnion brothers have played together on the season when it matters. They have played pick up hockey together and worked hockey camps together. But this is the first time the two will be on the same team. You never know they may even play on the same line from time-to-time. “It’s going to be pretty cool,” stated Riley. “I never actually played on a real team with him. Hopefully, I won’t try to yell at him too much on the ice. We’ve actually played picked up games together. It’s going to be fun the first time playing together. So, it should be a good time.” But for now Riley is concentrated on the task at hand. He wants to build on a breakout campaign that saw him finish third in scoring with 28 points (8 goals, 20 assist) in 36 games. He knows to be able to build off what he did last year he needed to get in stronger, faster. That meant hitting the ice in the offseason when everyone is relaxing at the beach, working on their tan. “This offseason I basically worked out all summer with 21 brother,” stated Riley. “The month of July I worked at my d N( 26W6ג'&FW"B&R&RFFFBvP66VBFRG2FW&RFVvR&R&RF6FRBvBN( 0&WGGvBvrf"W2&66ǒW7Bv&rvFFRvPFBvRfR( ХFRf֖ǒVv72R`r6WFV66pBFWfRFRB&W2WfVFVvB&WBBN( 02&BgFW"vV0rF2&RfW"RW0gFW"r7FB&fW766WBv&RFRFvWB&VBFR&V66FVRFRf֖ǒVv7Vv7FB2WfW'&W06RB6֖r&6R6֖r&6FvW&RB&Vv6֖r&6FvW7BB( Ēv2fRBGvv2ऒv2vFVBFFf6ऒ6VvR6WגFW"vBF&R66BFRFf6ऒWfVBWfVvW"( 7FFV@&W( ħW7BF&R&VBגF@B6VRrR66W2@&R&VBF6VRrFWFFw22&VV&WGG6WW&V6R( Р