Special runs in the Reilly family. The eldest Reilly sibling, Shannon, played college hockey at Ohio State. Caitlin Reilly, the youngest of five children, was an All-Metro standout this season on Benilde-St. Margaret’s Class 2A runner-up team. She’ll play hockey at Penn State.
The family gets its passion for the game from the father, Mike. He was part of the 1981 NCAA runner-up Gophers hockey team. His collegiate career started at Colorado College and finished at Minnesota.
Mike was drafted by the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens in 1977 and 34 years later his son, Michael Jr., was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Hard on the ears
The noise level in the car after the brothers’ youth hockey practice was unbearable.
“They would all get in the car and say, ‘Well, you didn’t do this pass’ or ‘You should have passed it to me here or there,’ ” Lisa Reilly said. “They were at each other the whole way home. I would say ‘Just stop! Just stop!’ … They were coaching each other all the time.”
The brothers have continued this practice wherever they’ve played.
Whether at home in their hockey den, or during their 35-0 season of Squirts, in high school at Holy Angels, during their record 42-game winning streak in the British Columbia Hockey League with the Penticton Vees, and now for the No. 2-ranked Gophers, they’re giving feedback and sometimes criticism.
The brothers, and even their dad, are still punishing Connor for a bad pass he made to Ryan on a breakaway earlier this season. Ryan jokes that it was intentional to keep him from stealing Connor’s job.
Ryan provides the laughs for the trio. Connor tends to be serious and in control. Mikey is the stubborn, goofy little brother, according to younger sister Caitlin.
On the ice, Mikey has been at the forefront of the trio. He played 36 games in his rookie season with the Gophers and won a gold medal with the U.S. National Junior team in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships. This season he’s played in every game, is the Gophers’ fifth-leading scorer (22 points) and is the Big Ten’s leading scorer among defensemen.
None of that matters to the twins. They make sure Mikey never gets complacent and stays sharp in the classroom.
“They don’t care if he has more goals than both of them combined, he’ll back down [to Connor and Ryan],” Mike Reilly Sr. said. “I think [the accountability has] helped their development.”
They are each other’s biggest fan. Connor said Mikey lights up each time Ryan has been on the ice with them this season, and Mikey and Connor often follow Ryan’s work ethic. Describing one another as players and teammates is an extended process that leads to laughter.
Though the trio has only played five games together this season, Ryan is hopeful he can work his way into a regular role over the next two seasons. Their chemistry and success as a unit has proved itself in the past and they plan to do the same in college.
Mikey believes in it so much, he said he’d pick playing with his brothers over leaving college early for professional hockey.
“Every day we come to the rink, we realize how lucky we are,” Connor said. “None of us would be here without the other.”