Strong goaltending for a hockey team is comparable to strong quarterback play for a football team: without it, the team is destined for mediocrity, or possibly worse.
Because of Cody Reilly, the Rowan men’s ice hockey team doesn’t have this concern lingering in their locker room.
The junior netminder has been a rock for the Profs, and one of the reasons they were able to shore up the second seed in the playoffs.
“He’s a big component in our success,” head coach John Caulfield said. “He’s athletic, he’s big, he makes the timely save and everybody looks up to him in the [locker room].”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Reilly ranks second among all goalies in total saves in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association, and fourth in goals against average for goalies who have played at least 12 games.
Reilly is a humble guy, and like most goalies, blankets himself in blame when his team suffers a loss. Rather than speak on the many positives of his season, Reilly immediately brought up three losses that stick with him, including a game against William Paterson where he let by seven pucks.
“The ‘Willy P’ loss was disappointing,” Reilly said.
In his next three games after William Paterson, Reilly proved his resilience by posting a save percentage of .921.
“He just made some ridiculous saves out of nowhere,” senior defenseman Andrew Dougherty said. “Throw a glove out there, and snag something that most goalies won’t get.”
When teammates or coaches are asked to describe Reilly, almost all of them speak at length about his athleticism and his stellar glove hand.
“You think you got him beat then he brings out that athleticism,” Caulfield said. “It’s that athleticism that separates him from other goalies in our league.”
In the same breath, Caulfield excitedly recalled a game against Temple University that happened over a year ago, when Reilly thwarted a Temple breakout that pitted himself against three undefended skaters.
“And then he even stopped the rebound shot too,” Caulfield said.
Reilly has been playing hockey his whole life, but credits another sport for developing his reactions and swift glove.
“Baseball definitely [helped] my glove hand,” Reilly said. “I was a catcher growing up, so that definitely helped out.”
The junior goalie also lends credit to his idol, former New Jersey Devils goalie great Martin Brodeur, for giving him a style of play after which to mold his game, despite being told he is “Dominik Hasek-esque” by an assistant coach sitting nearby.
It would be a difficult task to estimate the true value that Reilly has provided his teammates this season. The Profs have been a devastatingly-penalized team, and without the spectacular play of Reilly, the penalties could have been detrimental to the season.
“He keeps us in games, sometimes when we don’t deserve it,” Caulfield said.
Reilly is playing especially excellent hockey as of right now, and hitting his stride just as the regular season is wrapping up, and giving way to the postseason. Reilly recorded his first shutout of the season while facing the University of Maryland on Friday, Jan. 29.
“I [did] whatever I could to try to stop [the puck],” Reilly said. “Stack the pads here or there, butterfly [position]. Pretty much do anything to stop the puck.”
For a modest goalie whose only flash comes when his glove hand flies to nab a puck destined for the back of the net, Reilly is best described by the simple words of one of the Profs’ co-captains.
“Good goalie, good kid. He keeps the puck out of the net, and does his job,” Dougherty said.
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