Army Hockey’s Biggest Question Mark This Season

Army hockey is back today, so now’s as good a time as any to asses the state of the team and preview the season.
Head Coach Brian Riley returns to coach Army for his 16th year with the team. Last season wasn’t the best by any standards, a 12-20-7 overall record while posting a 8-13-7 in Atlantic play.
The Black Knights finished 10th in the Atlantic Hockey conference and lost in the AHA quarterfinals to AIC, who would eventually win the conference and knock off top-seeded St Cloud State in the playoffs.
That season had a bright spot though, Hobey Baker candidate, defenseman Dalton MacAfee, who finished 4th in Hobey Baker voting.
MacAfee and forward Trevor Fidler are the Knights’ two big losses this season. MacAfee was one of the most productive defensemen in the country, posting 35 points in 37 games. However, Army only loses MacAfee on the ice. The now-2LT’s game experience and wisdom will stay with the team in the form of an Assistant Coach.
Army returns 3 key forwards (Zach Evancho, Dominic Franco and Brenden Soucie) as well as now senior defenseman Alex Wilkinson. Each forward averaged a point in every game they played, and Wilkinson had 26 in 34.
Defensive play will be different, just because MacAfee won’t be on the ice. Alex Wilkinson is going to have to be the leader of the unit, but he’s more than capable.
Wilkinson, Evancho and Franco will be this year’s captains.
Joining the forwards this year are Johnny Keranen, Brett Abdelnour, Patrick Smyth and Kendrick Frost while the defensemen add Thomas Ferrell, Anthony Firriolo and Noah Wilson. All of these players have come from junior leagues, some of them having played against each other. It’ll be a new challenge for them to create chemistry with each other and the rest of the team at a D1 pace.
With a lot of returning production and great new additions, what’s the key to Army’s success this year?
The answer is goaltending.
Trevin Kozlowski and Matt Penta split time this season, but together they posted a combined save percentage sub-.900, averaging just under 3 goals allowed per game.
Throwing new addition Justin Evenson from the NAHL and now-sophomore Blaine Madson into the situation will shake things up.
Granted, part of the shaky goalie play was because Penta was out for part of the season, however, the Black Knights have to find consistent goalie play this season. If they can, then they’re probably the most complete and well rounded team in the conference and give them a shot at the Atlantic title.
The Knights have a good balance between youth and experience, meaning that the program will be in good hands for the next few seasons as well.
But this time around, it’s now or never.
Army opens up the season with a challenge at Tate Rink vs Union. Puck drop is at 4 EST.

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