Welcome to Colonel’s Ice Hockey 101, your introductory course on all things about Wilkes University ice hockey. When the teams first dropped the puck at games in October, a new era of athletics began at the University. News@Wilkes takes a look at the newest additions to the campus community.
- Meet the Coaches:
- Men’s head coach Brett Riley is a third-generation hockey coach with a connection to the game that runs deep in his family. His grandfather coached at West Point for more than 35 years, after coaching the United States to the gold medal at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics. He also played for the U.S. Olympic team at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics. Riley’s father served as head coach at Army for 19 years. Riley comes to Wilkes by way of Albany Academy where he was the head coach for three years. He graduated from Hobart College in 2014 where he was a three-time ECAC West All-Academic Team selection during his four-year career on the ice for the Statesmen.
- Women’s head coach Earl Utter wasn’t born into hockey. It found him. “I watched a professional hockey game when I was nine years old and I caught the bug. I was a college soccer player. I just loved the game.” Utter added, “I took my first stint as a coach, standing behind the bench really, when I was 14. After I got out of college, I started coaching youth hockey and I was on my way.” Utter joined the family of Colonels after a nine-year stint as the women’s ice hockey head coach at SUNY Cortland. Previously he was the men’s ice hockey coach at Morrisville State from 1997-2007. He received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from SUNY Brockport in 1991 and earned his master’s degree from Western Michigan University in 1994.
- About the teams:
- The men’s team has 30 players. Riley explains that the players tend to be a bit older than the traditional first-year student at Wilkes. “In the game for men’s, you need to be older, bigger, stronger and a little more mature on and off the ice. The average age for a freshman for college hockey in Division I or Division III is about 20.5 or 21 years old,” Riley explains. “It’s what makes our game different.”
- The women’s team has 9 players. Utter explains that the age of women’s ice hockey team members differs from men’s. “For us, it’s mostly traditional students,” Utter says.
- One thing that both teams have in common is the range of places that players call home. “If you look at the men’s and women’s teams, you’re looking at 17 or 18 states on the map,” Riley says. “It draws from all over.” Players come from teams in British Columbia all the way to Wenatchee, Wash., and Tilton, N.H.
- How do players get to college-level hockey?
- Male players sometimes follow a different route than entering right from high school. “They play junior hockey, which prepares them for college hockey. I think a lot of guys have aspirations to play after [college] in some capacity on a semi-pro level whether it be in the states or in Europe,” explains Riley. “I think if they put their best foot forward and have a good four years here, we’ll have some guys who have a chance after Wilkes, which is a cool part about the experience.”
Women tend to follow a different path in the sport. “Both men and women start playing really young. It’s just more traditional for men to follow the junior hockey route and less traditional for women” Utter adds. “I don’t want to generalize, but most women tend to want to go to college right after high school. Most men who want to play college hockey want to further their experience and see how far they can go before they make a commitment on where they go to college.”
- What’s the difference between men’s and women’s ice hockey?
- “Women’s hockey is a different game—it’s not as well-known as men’s hockey. It’s not as physical and quiet honestly, not as fast,” says Utter. “Men’s is more power and strength and ours is less dependent on strength and power. It’s more dependent on puck movement.”
- The biggest difference you’ll see on the ice? There is limited to no body contact in women’s ice hockey.
- What should people expect if they come to a game?
- “You’ve seen it in both the men and the women’s games how fast paced and how exciting a hockey game is,” Riley says. “The action, the fans, the comradery of a college hockey game is an experience, it’s an event.” Utter agreed, “Our kids really thrive on the excitement that the students—that electricity, the hockey players love that.”
- How have the players acclimated to campus and sharing the facility with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins?
- “Acclimation into the school is huge because that’s what allows you to develop your fan base,” Utter notes. “When the kids come in and start making friends, that’s what draws them over to check out the game.”
- “Not only is the facility first class, but so are the people who work there,” says Riley. “It’s an eye-opening experience for our guys, because here we are, and hopefully one day they can play there in their own capacity.”
|Men’s Ice Hockey Games
|Women’s Ice Hockey Games