Blaze Riorden: Bringing the Butterfly to Lacrosse

By Jake Watts

Aug 20, 2021

Witnessing Greatness

Too often we take for granted elite players. The spectacular becomes normal. Incredible performances are just another day in the office. When it comes to Blaze Riorden we are watching a once in a generation talent in the present day. He has set a standard that makes 20 saves in a game look normal. But that is what greatness looks like. Sustained consistency night in and night out. Coaches, teammates, opponents, and fans know Blaze is going to show up every time he suits up. Any conversations about best PLAYER in the world have to include number 0.

Float Like a Butterfly

Most goalies utilize conventional fundamentals to stop that round pound of rubber from crossing the goal line. Blaze Riorden, the Chaos goalkeeper, is innovating with a unique style. He is perfecting the butterfly technique that may very well be used for years to come. We are witnessing a revolution of the goalie position.

The butterfly technique is a standard taught to hockey goalies across the world now because of one player. Patrick Roy was a National Hockey League goalie for almost two decades. He played against legends like Wayne Gretzky and Martin Brodeur. Two men that most consider the best to ever play their respective positions. While their greatness is undeniable, Roy’s impact on the sport is arguably more significant than both.

Roy changed the goalie position forever. The Quebec native perfected the butterfly knee technique to stop low shots. Like Roy, Riorden is transforming the netminder position. His style of play will ripple through future generations and he will have a lasting legacy in the sport of lacrosse.

The Chaos goalie stands 6 feet tall and over 225 pounds. A stout presence in the cage who has lightning quick hands and exceptional instincts. Some would describe his methods as unorthodox. A lefty that does not abide by the traditional rules of the position. For starters, his stance is upright and casual. He stands tall; all the while looking abnormally calm, waiting to be served popcorn. On top of that he frames his stick near his ear and holds his hands tight to his chest. His poise between the pipes is incomparable.

To add to his unique stance Riorden utilizes a four step arc rather than the conventional five. He credits US Lacrosse Hall of Famer Brian Dougherty for instilling the technique of shorter quicker movements.

“[Dougherty] emphasized the importance of simplifying the game,” said Riorden. “It's already a hard position, so do not make it harder on yourself. I focus on using less steps and less wasted movement to have more time to save the ball. At this level, 0.3 or even 0.2 seconds can make the difference between a save and a goal.”

A goalie’s strategy adapts depending on the position of a shooter. Riorden has implemented his own version of the butterfly technique for low angle shots.

“I get big on the pipes and play the percentages,” detailed Riorden. “I’ll take away the top of the net and anticipate low shots.”

He keeps his stick high with the trust of blocking shots with his legs by buckling his knees together. He has caught a 70 mph shot from Matt Kavanagh between his thighs. No other goalie routinely utilizes this bold maneuver. The tactic is revolutionary; it requires tremendous courage to execute consistently.

He must have metal plates for shins because he routinely uses them to stop shots.

Creating Offense With Defense

After securing the save, Riorden immediately transitions to quarterbacking the clear. He led the league in clean saves each year in the PLL. A clean catch leads to quick transition opportunities. Catch or not, Riorden has an uncanny ability to find the leaking outlet after saves. 

Riorden honed his field awareness during his time at Albany running point on their run and gun offense. That style of play translated perfectly to the fast-paced PLL product. The shortened field encourages transition opportunities.

“The easiest way to break a settled ride is to get the ball up and out,” said Riorden, “and transition is the easiest way to score.”

Easier said than done, but Riorden does make it look simple.

Writing The Record Book

The goalie's name appears frequently in the record books. He owns the 3 of the top 5 spots in single game saves. The most being 23 against Redwoods in 2020. He also is number one and number two in single season saves. To save a lot of shots you have to see a lot of rubber. Riorden has noted, “It’s not the amount of shots that gets you in rhythm, it’s getting those first couple saves that really gives you confidence.”

He has recorded six games of 20-plus saves. Out of the 97 games in PLL history there have only been 11 games in which a goalie has saved more than 20 shots. 

The Chaos goalie is in the conversation for MVP again. He finished first in saves again with 149 (17 saves per game). Riorden’s 62% overall save percentage is second-highest in the league. He is a two time Oren Lyons goalie of the year and well on his way to a third. If he keeps up his play they may be naming the award after him one day.

Blaze Riorden is having an unforgettable three year run. Those who have tuned in are witnessing greatness. The Chaos goalie is the best at his position and is etching his legacy into lacrosse history. Generations to come will model the butterfly technique as well as his clearing. The position will never be the same.

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