Carolina Chaos goalie Blaze Riorden

Blaze Riorden injury: Chaos’ star goalie leaves season-opening win over Outlaws

By Hayden Lewis | Jun 2, 2024

The Carolina Chaos made a few important changes to their style of play ahead of the 2024 season. But one thing that remained constant was Blaze Riorden between the pipes.

On Sunday, however, they were forced to play most of their season opener without their star goaltender.

Riorden saved eight of the first 11 shots he faced against the Denver Outlaws and added an assist on an Ian MacKay goal, but he suffered a left knee injury during the second quarter and did not return. Carolina went on to win 16-11 with longtime backup Austin Kaut in net.

On his eighth save, Riorden’s foot planted into the ground, and as he twisted away from the goal to start the clear, he began to limp. After a successful clear, the officiating crew blew the play dead, and Riorden – the four-time Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year – was helped to the sideline by the training staff and teammates. 

Shortly after entering the injury tent, Riorden exited on crutches and had heavy ice bags on his knee. He was the most impactful player on the field before going down with the injury.

At the halftime break, Chaos head coach and general manager Andy Towers shared an encouraging update on Riorden.

“I think he’s going to be OK,” Towers said on the ESPN+ game broadcast. “A couple of years ago, he had a similar situation in Minnesota. … It got loose and felt like it popped out a little bit and popped back in. No one is tougher than Blaze.”

Riorden, the only goalie to win the Jim Brown Most Valuable Player Award (which he did in 2021), entered the season ranked 12th all-time in career saves in professional field lacrosse.

Kaut initially struggled after replacing Riorden but settled in in the fourth quarter, finishing with eight saves and a 53.3% save percentage to help Carolina pull away late. During the game, Kaut became the eighth goalie ever to reach the 1,000-save mark for his career. 

MacKay said Kaut spoke to the team before the fourth quarter, acknowledging his initial shakiness and vowing to buckle down.  

“To hear him voice that and you know, coming from himself who’s in there and stepping in for Blaze, I think that just gave us a blanket of confidence to go out to the fourth and play a little bit more freely,” said MacKay, who called the 32-year-old Kaut the “backbone” of the Chaos locker room.

The severity of Riorden’s injury was unclear as of Sunday afternoon. If he will miss time, the Chaos could look to the Maryland Whipsnakes or New York Atlas for a trade. The Whips and Bulls each have three goalies rostered and will be the first options for any team needing a netminder. 

Kaut, an 11th-year pro, is an excellent teammate and leader in the locker room, but he isn’t a desirable long-term option to backstop the Chaos defense.