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Reilly, Hungry, Hopes To Eat An Outdoor Meal

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

EDMONTON – When Mike Reilly arrives on the campus of the University of Minnesota on Sunday for the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, he'll have some decisions to make.

With game-time temperatures projected around 40 degrees, layering up won't be Reilly's chief concern. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy conditions, probably eliminating the need for eye black, unless worn as an accessory.

But for Reilly, who was one of the premier college hockey players during his four years at the University of Minnesota, what to eat is a legitimate question. 

"It's an odd time, a 2:30 game; you don't get a lot of those," Reilly said. "You have to eat once, and then maybe a snack when you get to the rink. I know a few spots, and I have to see if I'm going to get a late brunch, or an early breakfast."

A Minnesotan through-and-through, Reilly didn't hide where he might end up should he decide to look for food in his old stomping grounds.

"For breakfast, you'd go to Tony's Diner, or Al's Breakfast place; that's usually pretty packed," Reilly said. "It was usually Tony's Diner. A lot of classmates would go there late afternoon after waking up late after the night. It was one of my go-to spots for breakfast."

When the Wild and the NHL announced the Stadium Series game in July at TCF Bank Stadium, Reilly was on hand. He had signed with his hometown team earlier that month, one of the most coveted college hockey free agents.

But that didn't come with the guarantee of Reilly jumping straight to the NHL. He was one of the final training camp cuts, and has played 40 games in Iowa of the American Hockey League in his first year pro.

"It's always been my goal to try to play in that game, and hopefully I am," Reilly said.

That dream is a lot closer to being a reality, with Reilly having played in the past six games for Minnesota. It began when a young Reilly, with older brothers Connor and Ryan, played on a front yard rink at their Chanhassen home, or on a neighboring pond with friends or teammates.

"We'd get really competitive all the time," Reilly said. "We had a good friend from Chaska, Tommy Burke, who would play goalie for us.

"We'd get another buddy and play a little two-on-two, and it was pretty competitive."

Connor, Ryan, and "Mikey," as he's known among his Wild teammates, all played for the University of Minnesota the past two seasons. In his junior year, Reilly and the Golden Gophers played Ohio State in an outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium, the same site of the Wild's Sunday game. The Gopher won that game 1-0.

Connor and Ryan are still University of Minnesota players, Minneapolis residents, and, like the 50,000-plus expected to be in attendance on Sunday, eagerly awaiting the game.

"They got a bye weekend, and it's a Sunday as well," Reilly said. "I've been talking to my mom a lot. … They're looking forward to it, and a lot of family and friends will be watching from around the state."

Reilly's sister, Caitlin, a goalie at Penn State University, won't be able to make the family skate on Friday. But Connor and Ryan won't have too difficult of a commute.

"A quick two-minute drive," Reilly said.

Meanwhile, Reilly can tell the game is getting close, not because of the questions he's been getting from is teammates, but the texts from former classmates, and social media posts.

"A few SnapChats as well, just stuff on Facebook a little bit, just sharing the video of the making of the ice at TCF, and how it's elapsed over the last week-and-a-half," Reilly said. "A lot of people are getting their tickets, a lot of people are flying in from out of town to see the game."

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