Carolina Chaos goalie Blaze Riorden

Chaos’ four options for replacing Blaze Riorden ahead of Homecoming Weekend

By Hayden Lewis | Jun 4, 2024

Carolina Chaos goalie Blaze Riorden went down with a knee injury during the second quarter of Sunday’s season opener. Riorden didn’t return to the contest and was seen on crutches for the rest of the game.

On Monday, PLL co-founder and president Paul Rabil revealed the nature of Riorden’s injury during a “SportsCenter” appearance.

"What I'm being told is a subluxation of his kneecap, which is better than tearing a ligament,” Rabil said. “Blaze has done it before. … I'm hearing positive news that he might be back in the next week or two."

A subluxation of the kneecap is a partial or incomplete dislocation of the knee – in Riorden’s case, it’s the left knee.

The league requires teams to dress two designated goalies each game. So, even if the 2021 Jim Brown Most Valuable Player only misses a few games, Carolina will need to make some sort of roster move in net.

Let’s dive into some replacement options for Riorden.

Option 1: Loyalty to Austin Kaut

Austin Kaut, Riorden’s longtime backup on the Chaos, stopped eight shots in relief Sunday. Kaut struggled early but came into a zone in the fourth quarter to help guide Carolina to a 16-11 victory over the Denver Outlaws in Albany.

“We have full trust in him,” Ian MacKay said after the win. “Whatever happens next week, you know, obviously hopefully Blaze is healthy and good to go, but if not, we’re going to be in a pretty good spot with Kauter in there as well.”

On Sunday, Kaut became the eighth goalie to join the 1,000-save club and moved up to seventh all-time in career saves with 1,004.

Though he’s stopped just 23 total shots since joining the Chaos in 2021, the 32-year-old has faced plenty of rubber in his career and can plug the hole that was left empty by Riorden's injury. The team will have to play stronger defensively in front of Kaut and could start running more slowly in transition without Riorden’s clearing ability.

If the Chaos elect to stick with Kaut between the pipes, head coach and general manager Andy Towers will need to pick up a goalie from the player pool. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Towers choose Mike Adler, who was with the team during training camp and can slot in as a backup for Kaut.

Option 2: Trade for Will Mark

Towers is loyal to his players, and it would be surprising to see him make a trade early in the season knowing that Riroden can return healthy.

However, the Maryland Whipsnakes have three goalies rostered and could be a target for the Chaos. Veteran goalie Kyle Bernlohr started the Whipsnakes' opening game – a 17-13 loss to the New York Atlas on Sunday – but after giving up six goals without making a save, he was pulled for Brendan Krebs. The third goalie on the Whips roster is Will Mark, the rookie out of Syracuse.

Bernlohr is signed through the end of this year, and Krebs is with the Whipsnakes until 2025, making Bernlohr a short-term option while Riorden is out. However, targeting Bernlohr would be challenging for the Chaos because Bernlohr is a former Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year and a three-time champion netminder.

A trade package would likely have to include a first- or second-round draft pick along with a player or two in return. The Whipsnakes have a deep roster at attack and midfield, the two areas where the Chaos would be able to offer the most compensation in a trade.

If Towers were to target Krebs, he could get away with a second- or third-round pick and a player in that trade. However, a trade for Krebs isn’t likely, leaving Mark as the only option.

Trading for Mark is risky, but in his collegiate career with Syracuse and Long Island University, he made over 900 saves. College shots aren't the same as professional shots, but Mark’s long college tenure can be helpful. Mark did not dress for the Whipsnakes' season opener.

Option 3: Trade for Drake Porter

Similar to the Whipsnakes, the Atlas have three goalies on their roster, including a rookie netminder who has never faced any shots at the pro level.

2019 Rookie of the Year Tim Troutner started between the pipes for both Atlas home games during Opening Weekend. Troutner played sturdy between the pipes, making a combined 27 saves in Saturday’s 19-12 win over Boston and Sunday’s win over Maryland. It’s hard to imagine New York trading Troutner after a start like that.

Fifth overall draft pick Liam Entenmann would be a home-run trade for Coach Towers, but also an unnecessary trade at the same time. Entenmann has the potential to be the league's best goalie in a couple of years after proving how skilled he was at Notre Dame, where he won back-to-back national championships with the Fighting Irish. A package for Entenmann would require a first-round pick and a couple of players in return for Atlas head coach and general manager Mike Pressler to throw away his future brick wall.

With Troutner and Entenmann off the board, the only Atlas goalie who could be a trade target is Drake Porter. Porter wasn’t spectacular in the games he played in relief last year, and quite frankly would back up Kaut, not start over him. So, that trade also feels unlikely.

Option 4: Sign Collin Krieg

If Towers hits the player pool for a goalie, it will likely be a backup for Kaut. Adler, as mentioned above, would likely be the first name Towers calls from the pool if that’s the option he selects.

Collin Krieg is also available in the player pool after attending Denver’s camp and failing to make the 25-man roster.

Krieg played at North Carolina and was an average netminder with the Tar Heels. It’s unlikely that Towers elects to sign Krieg with his unproven professional track record.

My take

If Riorden is out for a week or two, he could miss up to three games because the Chaos play two in their upcoming Homecoming Weekend and another the following week.

I think Kaut can sit between the pipes and prove to be a steady source of ball-stopping for the Chaos, who have one of the more experienced defenses in the league. Riorden’s injury means losing a step in transition because no goalie is as smooth as him at clearing the ball. Kaut will have to step up and play a large role in the transition game to help the Chaos’ overall offense.

The loss in transition won’t be too detrimental for Carolina because Kaut is the backbone of the team and his teammates believe in him, making a switch from Riorden to Kaut the smoothest for the Chaos.

Option 1 is the scenario I would go with and will likely become the easiest option as Friday’s game with the California Redwoods approaches.