Reilly’s versatility was a big reason head coach Andy Copelan picked him in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and he showed it off on his very first play.
“He’s composed for a rookie and you kind of know what you’re going to get from him,” Copelan said postgame. “He’s a great stick handler, he set a great pick for Michael… So James does more than just take faceoffs and I think he’s got a bright future here.”
Reilly won the game’s first three faceoffs, including two that resulted in goals on the new 32-second shot clock. By the end of the first, Reilly had won six-of-eight faceoffs and the Waterdogs held a 6-1 lead. But then, Irelan won seven straight from the 7:22 mark in the second through the end of the third, and the Redwoods stormed back to win it 10-9.
Overall, it was a promising debut for the rookie. He finished 10-for-21 with three ground balls and now has the second-highest win percentage after losing the clamp this season (38.9%). Along with flashing his athleticism at the stripe and toughness in transition, Reilly succeeded in playing to the team’s strengths in his debut.
Working the Wings
Before the game, Reilly said his goal was to work the wings, and that’s exactly what he did. On his faceoff wins, wings got the ground ball 40% of the time – the league average is 28%, according to Mike Binkowski.
“I know we have some of the best wing guys in the country in Ryland Rees and Zach Currier, so I know my job is to make as many 50/50 balls as I can,” Reilly said.
Even during the Redwoods’ comeback in the second quarter, Reilly was finding ways to win without controlling the ball.
After a Redwoods goal made it 6-3, Irelan controled it at the stripe, but Reilly checked him trying to escape, and he fumbled the ball forward for Currier to scoop up. It may not have stopped the comeback, but interrupting Irelan’s momentum helped keep this game close.