|From left to right, Connor, Mike and Ryan Reilly are in their third season for the Minnesota Gophers. Mike, a defenseman, stands between his older twin brothers Connor and Ryan, who play forward. (Photo courtesy of Golden Gopher Athletics) |
If two’s company, then three’s a family for the Reilly brothers. Twins Connor and Ryan, along with younger brother Mike are in their third season together at the University of Minnesota.
The Reillys came in as part of the same recruiting class in 2012 and have continued to share the hockey dream as a family at the college level.
“Not many brothers get to experience that, let alone three brothers,” Ryan said. “The fact that me, Mikey and Connor are all in the same grade, the fact that we get to play every game together and be there for practices is just incredible. I’m blessed every day just to think about it.”
Despite the age difference, it was common for Mike, who is 22 months younger than the twins, to play up on teams with his older brothers. Having three boys on one team would be a relief for most parents as there’s only one hockey schedule to worry about but for Mike and Lisa Reilly, they also had to tend to the oldest child, Shannon, and the youngest, Caitlin, and their respective hockey schedules.
Five children, five sets of equipment, dozens of hockey sticks, practices, games and travel schedules added up to one cluttered calendar in the Reilly household.
“It was obviously a big commitment on their part because of the countless driving, hockey tournaments, staying in hotel rooms, all the hockey camps growing up,” Connor said. “We’re all grateful for what they did for us and because of that we worked as hard as we could and we wanted to be the best we could. We love the game but also, we were getting a big opportunity because our parents have full support behind us and that just gave us a little more motivation to take advantage of the opportunities given and hopefully play at a higher level.”
Shannon played defense for Ohio State for four seasons and Caitlin is a freshman forward for Penn State. Throw in the Gophers trio with Connor and Ryan up front and Mike playing defense, and the Reillys could field an entire line on their own. Consider a house full of hockey equipment and they could probably open up a pro shop too.
Connor said it was a year-round competition with the brothers: roller hockey in the spring, summer and fall, and pond hockey in the winter. If the weather didn’t cooperate, then going inside was always an option.
“In our basement, my parents left it unfinished in a certain area so we could shoot pucks, so we spent countless hours down there just shooting pucks, stickhandling, I think that’s a big part where we developed our skills and abilities,” he said. “Obviously, hockey was a big part of our life growing up just because we loved it so much. We played other sports, but hockey was definitely our passion.”
Sharing their passion now in college, Mike leads all B1G defensemen in scoring with 32 points, while Connor and Ryan have been offensive contributors for the Gophers, combining on 11 goals and 18 points this season.
In three seasons at Minnesota, the Reillys surprisingly haven’t had much of an opportunity to be on the ice in a game at the same time. Connor missed the entire first season with a knee injury and has been sidelined again this season with another knee injury. The brothers have never contributed on the same goal either, but Connor noted an opportunity last season brought them very close to making Gophers’ history.
“Somehow, we had a 2-on-0 in college hockey — that doesn’t happen — and I gave Ryan an absolutely horrible pass,” Connor said. “It should’ve been a goal but I gave him a terrible pass and he didn’t score.”
With a lifetime of playing experience together, the Reillys continue to share their hockey dream playing for the Gophers. With a few close calls already, could the B1G one day see a ‘Reilly from Reilly and Reilly’ on the stat sheet?
“It’s fun when all three of us are out there,” Connor said. “because that’s how it was when we were growing up.”
No. 15 MICHIGAN (8-4-0, 16-10-0)
OVERVIEW: The Wolverines lost consecutive games this season for the first time since Michigan Tech swept them in early November. Losing 6-2 and 2-0 in a two-game series at Minnesota knocked Michigan from the top spot in the B1G and will now have to bounce back with a home-and-home series with rival Ohio State. Plagued by slow starts, UM’s offense had difficulty in the early stages of both games against the Gophers and fell behind early. The Buckeyes, however, have lost seven of the last eight games, giving up 10 goals to the Wolverines on Jan. 23 and have surrendered 3.5 goals per game since then. The UM offense should have plenty of chances to get back on track this weekend and potentially regain the conference’s top spot as 10 different Wolverines have scored against OSU this season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Captain Andrew Copp was a minus-3 with just one shot on goal as the Wolverines were swept by Minnesota. Coach Red Berenson needs his team leader to be better if the Wolverines are going to have success late in the season as the team is 14-2-0 when Copp records a point. He has just one goal in the last four games and UM has gone 1-3-0 in the process. It’s Copp’s worst stretch of games statistically in his career for the Wolverines but look for him to snap the drought against rival OSU as he has five goals and nine points in eight career games against the Buckeyes.
THIS WEEKEND: at Ohio State, Feb. 20, vs. Ohio State, Feb. 22.
MICHIGAN STATE (6-4-2, 12-12-2)
OVERVIEW: The Spartans carry momentum into their weekend matchup with the B1G’s last-place Wisconsin team, having won five of the last six. A hat trick by sophomore forward Mackenzie MacEachern propelled MSU to a 3-2 win over Penn State on Saturday despite getting outshot 42-29. The Spartans have shown an ability to compete with top teams in the B1G with wins over UM and PSU already, and while a defensive game may not be pretty, it is productive. The Spartans are two points out of first place and could continue their run against a UW team that has just three wins total this season. The Spartans will play the Badgers four times in the next three weeks.
PLAYER TO WATCH: A commitment to defense and a hot goalie has been a winning formula for coach Tom Anastos, whose goalie Jake Hildebrand leads the B1G with a 2.27 goals against average and .924 save percentage. Hildebrand’s 3-0 shutout of PSU on Friday was the third of the season and seventh of his career moving him into fifth place all-time in MSU history. The junior has held opponents to two goals or fewer in 14-of-26 games this season and has given his team a chance to win on a consistent basis. The Badgers average the lowest shots on goal per game (24.6) and lowest goals per game (2) so Hildebrand should smother a struggling UW offense on the road.
THIS WEEKEND: at Wisconsin, Feb. 20-21.
No. 17 MINNESOTA (7-2-3, 16-9-3)
OVERVIEW: February has been a much better month for the Gophers after they struggled through much of January. Minnesota is 5-0-1 in the last six including four in a row and has replaced UM for the top spot in the B1G with a 2-0 win on Saturday. Heading into another tough matchup this week with PSU will be a battle of offenses as both teams average more than 3.5 goals per game with efficient power play units. What separates the Gophers is their goaltending, as Adam Wilcox has been on a roll with a 1.50 goals against average and .933 save percentage in his last four starts and leading the conference with 16 wins and four shutouts this season. That consistency will favor Minnesota as PSU has had a goaltending carousel in net with three different goalies.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Kyle Rau went four straight games without a point in January, that was the longest drought of his collegiate career and his offense was sorely missed by Minnesota. Since then, Rau has returned in a big way scoring six goals and nine points in seven games leading the team to a big bounce back in February. Rau recorded the second hat trick of his career in the Gophers’ 6-2 win over UM with a power-play goal, even-strength goal and shorthanded goal on Friday. The Eden Prairie, Minn., native now has 153 career points and the Gophers are 79-13-8 all-time when Rau records a point.
THIS WEEKEND: at Penn State, Feb. 20-21.
OHIO STATE (3-9-0, 8-16-2)
OVERVIEW: The Buckeyes snapped a six-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Badgers on Friday. It would have been a nice momentum swing if they didn’t follow it up with a 3-2 loss to the last-place team in the B1G the following night. The Buckeyes have given up a staggering 18 total goals in the two previous meetings against UM going 0-2-0 and if the Wolverines even come close to emulating past success, OSU could struggle again. The good news is that UM’s offense has slowed to a mere 1.75 goals per game in the last four games, which is a huge drop off for a team that averages 3.96 for the season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Anthony Greco has proved to be one of the most dynamic goal scorers in the B1G this season producing 14 of his team’s 67 goals. He is third in the conference in scoring and has recorded two hat tricks this season while leading OSU in goals, points (17), power-play goals (3) and game-winning goals (3). One of those hat tricks came in a 10-6 loss to UM on Jan. 16, scoring his second and third goals of the game just eight seconds apart in the third period. The junior forward can strike quickly and often as the primary source of offense on an otherwise stagnant Buckeyes team.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. Michigan, Feb. 20, at Michigan, Feb. 22.
PENN STATE (7-4-1, 15-9-4)
OVERVIEW: The Nittany Lions’ offense stalled against a stout MSU defense in East Lansing, scoring just two goals on 70 shots in two games. The road trip was the first time in 10 weeks that PSU has had to venture outside of Pennsylvania and its road woes were exposed as the Nittany Lions are now just 4-5-0 away from home. The Nittany Lions get their first shot at Minnesota at home, where they are 10-1-3 and undefeated in the last seven. With an 0-4-0 all-time record against Minnesota, the Lions have two very big chances to springboard themselves to the top of the B1G standings and perhaps a return to the nation’s Top 20 rankings.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior Casey Bailey has been one of the most consistent players in the conference producing six goals and 12 points in the last nine games and hasn’t gone more than a game without a point all season. Bailey leads the B1G with 20 goals and is second in points with 34, leading the way for a PSU team that has broken out as a contender this season. The 6-foot-3 forward has two game-winning goals and has assisted on three more, leading the team in power-play goals, a plus-12 rating and 167 shots on goal.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. Minnesota, Feb. 20-21.
WISCONSIN (1-9-2, 3-19-4)
OVERVIEW: The Badgers snapped an 11-game winless streak edging out OSU with a 3-2 win on Saturday. While the victory was UW’s first of the season in conference-play, the team is fully capable of adding a few more this weekend at home against MSU. The Spartans are one of the best defensive teams in the nation but the Badgers have shown an ability to compete with good teams tying Minnesota twice, tying Boston University, and defeating Michigan Tech and Ferris State. Playing at home against an MSU team that doesn’t produce a ton of offense could play into the Badgers’ favor as they are 3-5-3 when allowing three goals or fewer.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Goalie Joel Rumpel has made at least 30 saves in 13 games this season. He also has five games with at least 40 saves this season after having just one all of last season, showing how much the Badgers have relied on their goaltender to keep them in close games. Rumpel hasn’t had much relief defensively, facing 832 shots this season — most in the conference — and 53 more than MSU’s Jake Hildebrand who has played 182:11 more than Rumpel. In what should be a low-scoring series at the Kohl Center, Rumpel is capable of big performances and could shut down an MSU team that has been held to one goal or less eight times this season.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. Michigan State, Feb. 20-21.
The Big Ten will descend on Joe Louis Arena for the first time from March 19-21 as the conference’s championship tournament will be staged in Detroit with all five games set to air live on the Big Ten Network. All-session ticket packages, which include one ticket to all five games of the tournament, start at $45, and are now on sale at the JLA box office (313-471-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at OlympiaEntertainment.com.
The top two seeds entering the tournament receive byes through the opening-round games, which will take place March 19 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The semifinals are scheduled for March 20 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., with the championship game set to follow on March 21 at 8 p.m.