November 26, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Millan Fighting Sophomore Slump

by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Kieran Millan won Jack Parker a national championship.

He won him a conference championship and another Beanpot on the way to that unforgettable night in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday night, he won him a game, 6-5 in overtime, against Harvard. Or, more appropriately, he rode along while his Boston University teammates won its coach a game against Harvard.

Entering the game, the Terriers' record stood at 3-7-1 – Millan’s an equally underwhelming 2-7-0.

Pinning Millan as the sole symptom of BU’s early season hiccups might be unfair, but at some point the reigning Hockey East Freshman of the Year needs to show something, anything, resembling the netminder who made college hockey forget he was a freshman last season.

In the season’s first four weeks, fellow sophomore Grant Rollheiser played spectator as he mended a high ankle sprain. He returned to the Terrier lineup two weeks ago in a 6-4 win over an upstart Merrimack squad. The victory and, maybe most importantly, the confidence Rollheiser displayed in the win earned the praise of captain Kevin Shattenkirk; compelling the junior skipper to heark back to the beginning of 2008 when Parker rotated the pair until an injury made Millan the de facto No. 1.

With both healthy at the moment, Parker has rotated the pair in the last five games, – Tuesday night’s win was the first of those five that Millan won – and it’s safe to expect Rollheiser to get the nod against Cornell on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, even if Parker won’t say so himself. In his second start of the season, Rollheiser guided the Terriers to a 3-3 tie against New Hampshire at Agganis Arena; the night before, Millan allowed four goals on 27 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Wildcats.

Cornell is a slightly tougher a test than Merrimack or a searching New Hampshire team, but it’s been clear since Rollheiser’s return who the better goaltender is at this particular moment.

“Kieran hasn’t been as sharp as I think he’d like to be,” Parker said following BU’s come-from-behind, overtime win against the Crimson.

It isn’t so much the amount of goals Millan has allowed causing the problems, as it is the type of saves he just isn’t making. In the first period on Tuesday and the gamed knotted, 1-1, Harvard winger Alex Kilorn flipped the puck toward Millan. The shot, meant more to create a rebound than to tilt the scoreboard in Harvard’s favor, fluttered toward Millan who reached out to deflect it with his blocker.

He accomplished that.

But rather than deflect it harmlessly into the corner, it kicked off his blocker into his own net. The goal gave Harvard a 2-1 lead at that point.

The Crimson’s first goal illustrated another problem Millan and the entire BU team has dealt with this season – they just can’t catch a break.

Freshman defenseman Sean Escobedo tried to pass the puck behind his own net to partner Max NiCastro. The puck slid toward the official who tried to elude it, but kicked it directly into the slot instead. Harvard freshman Conor Morrison picked up the loose puck and beat Millan for his first of four goals on the night. Even a simple breakout attempt by his teammates winds up giving Millan problems.

Not that his defensemen are entirely guiltless. BU lost Matt Gilroy, and the black hole that was the right side of the ice whenever he skated onto it, and Brian Strait, but a group led by Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen shouldn’t be allowing nearly four goals per contest.

Millan earned a little wiggle room after a freshman season that resulted in a 29-2-3 record and a 1.94 goals-against average.

There’s little doubt that Millan can be a top-flight Division I goaltender. In times like these, a goaltender needs a string of victories to ease his way back to form.

His offense shouldn’t need six goals to get him that win, though.

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