College Hockey Report: LIU Hires Riley, but Alabama-Huntsville Hockey is No More

In the past week, folks who follow college hockey have been exposed to both a substantial high and a devastating low. For Long Island University, they are now able to begin recruiting players as they have finally hired the program’s first head coach.

For Alabama-Huntsville, their 35-year journey as a varsity program came to a screeching halt. The Chargers’ hockey team was cut, becoming the first casualty in college hockey as a result of the economic impact caused by the pandemic.

Long Island Peg Brett Riley as First Head Coach

After almost a month since the Long Island University made the shocking announcement that they will ice a Division I hockey team in the 2019-20 season, the Sharks announced on Thursday the hiring of the team’s first bench boss.

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Meet Brett Riley, a third-generation coach out of South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Before coaching, Riley played four years at Hobart College, a Division III school located in upstate New York. He followed his playing career by coaching three seasons of high school hockey at the Albany Academy before taking the reins for D-III Wilkes University in the 2018-19 season, where Riley was named United Collegiate Hockey Conference Coach of the Year.

Brett Riley Colgate University
Wilkes University went 16-8-2 in their first season under Riley (Justin Wolford-Colgate Athletics)

Last season, Riley stood behind the bench at Colgate University beside head coach Don Vaughan, while Colgate went 12-16-8.

Riley comes to LIU with not just a coaching pedigree of his own, but within his own family as well. Brett’s father, Rob, coached at West Point from 1985 to 2004, and is now an amateur scout with the Buffalo Sabres. Rob, along with Brett’s mom Debbie, earned their master’s degrees at LIU. Grandfather Jack also coached Army, standing behind the bench from 1950 until he handed son Rob the reins in 1985. Jack is most famous for coaching the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team to a gold medal at the Squaw Valley Winter Games.

“I am very excited to become the first men’s hockey coach at Long Island University,” Riley told the media on Thursday. “We will work tirelessly to build a highly competitive program on the ice, in the classroom and throughout the community.”

It certainly will not be an easy task, as we are now less than five months from the beginning of the 2020-21 season. As of now, there are no rumblings of any commitments, but there are some players looking for a spot next season…

Alabama-Huntsville Gets the Axe

There have been plenty of whispers of how the pandemic’s effect on the economy is going to affect the sporting landscape. Case in point, the Western States Hockey League has already elected to forgo the upcoming season, planning to return in the fall of 2021.

However, that does not compare to the announcement last week that the University of Alabama-Huntsville, among other budget cuts, will no longer be sporting an NCAA hockey team. They become the first program in college hockey to be cut since Wayne State shut their program down in 2008.

Since coming on board as an NAIA program back in 1985, the Chargers have experienced certain ups-and-downs throughout its history. Their 1996 and 1998 Division II National Championship were the first for UAH in any sport. The Chargers also won the College Hockey America Conference Championships in 2007 and 2010.

To say it has been a bumpy road over the past few seasons for the Chargers, both on and off the ice, would be an understatement. Since 2010, the team had only won more than 10 games in the regular season once, that being the 2017-18 season. Since arriving to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 2013, UAH had only made it to the playoffs three times, getting knocked out in the first round each time.

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The program was almost shut down after the 2011-12 season, but the school eventually reversed their decision.

Yet, the final nail came after UAH needed to make changes to ensure the school’s financial stability, and the hockey team was at the top of the board. The big reason for cutting the program is the team’s large transportation budget, as the Chargers were having to travel to places such as Northern Minnesota and Alaska, a big expenditure for a D-II school.

Cam Talbot, who donned the Chargers blue and white for three seasons, took to Twitter to express what the program meant to his career.

Former head coach Mike Corbett feels like the rug was taken out from underneath the team.

“We’ve had to work so hard over the course of the last seven years,” Corbett told Adam Wodon of College Hockey News. “But we were getting better.”

Corbett also stated that the Chargers were attempting to join the revamped Central Collegiate Hockey Association in the 2021-22 season.

There is currently a GoFundMe set up by both Chargers alumni and supporters to raise $500,000 of the necessary $1 million it will take to run the program. The deadline is May 29, with a little over $400,000 being raised by Thursday evening.

It is never great news to hear that a hockey program, or any athletics program for that matter, is forced to shut down. Yet, with one dark moment, a light emerges as Long Island University can now begin to build its team with a new man on campus.