Lost in the Luster
Goaltender Milner Shines in BC Rout
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
TAMPA, Fla. With less than a minute to go in the first period of Thursday's national semifinal, Minnesota's Taylor Matson took a pass from Nick Bjugstad and, for a brief moment, found himself staring at an empty net and a chance to tie the game. A split second later, Boston College goalie Parker Milner slid across the crease and made a terrific pad save to preserve the 1-0 lead.
The Eagles wound up winning in a rout, 6-1. But while the score would indicate that Milner didn't need to be big, he was. And for the first two periods, he had to be. With Minnesota on the power play early in the second, the Gophers had another golden opportunity to tie the game, but Milner stoned Bjugstad's rebound bid from right in front.
Later in the period, with BC leading 2-0, Milner made another big stop, this time when Jake Hansen found himself all alone in the slot. Chris Kreider made it 3-0 Eagles on the very next shift, and from there the rout was on.
"When I looked at the game and watched it from the bench area, I thought Parker Milner made some very timely saves early in the game when I thought Minnesota was pressing," said BC coach Jerry York. "They had the puck. They had some excellent opportunities to score, and not just one, but multiple times. Parker, he was just big in net. He was very confident and really fueled us to stay in the game."
Milner has always had confidence in himself, but there was plenty of reason for others to doubt him earlier this season. In a three-game stretch from Nov. 13 to Dec. 2, the junior surrendered 12 goals on 69 shots — a measly .826 save percentage. He lost all three games, and lost the starting job.
Milner started just one game over the next month and a half before getting a chance to reclaim the job after freshman Brian Billett and senior Chris Venti both struggled during a sweep at the hands of Maine on Jan. 20-21.
From there, the numbers tell the story. Beginning with a pair of wins over New Hampshire the next weekend, Milner has started 18 straight games in net. BC has won all 18, and Milner has a posted a sparkling 1.11 goals against average and .960 save percentage.
"I don't really feel like anything's changed," Milner said. "I think my glove has gotten a little stronger, and I've kind of cut down on the bad goals. When I wasn't doing well, it was so obvious that a lot of it was on me, because the goals that I was giving up weren't very good. I think just tightening things up and doing what I have to, and letting my team take care of the rest has been the key."
York said he can see everyone's confidence growing with each game. Milner looks more confident in net, his defensemen look more confident in front of him, and both keep feeding off each other.
"It's just like he's climbing up the steps," York said. "Every game, he gets better and better. It's remarkable to watch. (Scott) Clemmensen and (John) Muse and (Cory) Schneider, they were always good. They never really had a stretch where, 'Do we have a goalie here?' or 'How good's the goalie?' We always knew we had a goaltender with them. Parker was really struggling to play at our level. Then all of a sudden, he made all these strides. He's just improved each week."
Both York and Milner credited assistant coach Jim Logue as a big part of Milner's turnaround. Logue has been an assistant at BC for 19 years and has helped mold Clemmensen, Schneider and Muse, among others, into elite college goalies. Logue starred at BC from 1959-1961, played on the 1968 U.S. Olympic team, and coached in the Olympic program from 1972-1976.
The main points he emphasized with Milner were his glove and his rebound control, both of which have gotten noticeably better during this run.
"It's great to have someone like him," Milner said. "It was a long time ago, but he played in the Olympics. He was an incredible goaltender. And he's worked with some incredible goaltenders. It's hard not to have an unbelievable amount of respect for him. When someone was in your shoes at one time, you know that they know what they're talking about."
Milner might have had more struggles than either Clemmensen, Schneider or Muse ever had, but now he finds himself playing in and winning the same games they played in and won, the games where a goalie makes a name for himself. Milner has allowed just seven goals in seven postseason games this season, and Minnesota's third-period goal on Thursday snapped a 193-minute shutout streak.
York said earlier in the season that it's difficult to win championships with a "B goalie," and that he was hoping one of his netminders would emerge as an "A goalie." Milner has, and now the Eagles are one win away from their third national championship in the last five years.