HOCKEY PREVIEW: Milner Keeps Working For More
After Suffering Through A Midseason Slump Last Year, Parker Milner Looked To His Work Ethic
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Redemption is one of the greatest elements of sports. Whether an aging former all-star beats the odds to lead his team to glory, or an underachieving team mounts a late-game comeback, sports fans live for redemption. Parker Milner knows a thing or two about redemption. After starting out the 2011 season as the slated starter between the pipes, Milner went through a midseason slump and was sent back to the bench. Boston College hockey fans know what happened from there.
“You have to love what you’re doing, and I do,” he said. “I like to play, and that’s why I wanted to get back in there, because hockey’s what I love to do and it’s what I came here to do.”
Milner took his poor performance and, rather than pity himself for being benched, used it as motivation to not only get back on the ice but also regain his teammates’ trust.
“Whenever you’re not meeting the expectations of others on you and your expectation of yourself, it’s definitely incredibly disappointing,” he said. “I went through some of that in the middle of the season. I was proud of how I battled back. I just tried to stay with what I was doing, and just keep doing the things that I’ve been doing my whole career.”
The Pittsburgh, Pa. native worked with his coaches before practice each day, cheered his teammates on from the pine, and kept his head up during the whole process. This strengthened work ethic was not a new element to Milner’s repertoire. Since his early playing days, he’s always had an intense work ethic. PK O’Handley, head coach of the Waterloo Blackhawks, helped Milner develop his game in the USHL, and always saw a good worker in net.
“He has tremendous focus,” O’Handley said. “When we had him here, he was always on his game, whether it was practice or a game. His preparation even before he got on the ice was outstanding. I think that’s probably the biggest thing.”
This was a noticeable factor during his time at Waterloo, as made evident by his being named Most Improved Player by his teammates upon finishing his year with a 20-7-1 record, 2.90 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. For Milner, a work-related accolade is probably the greatest individual accolade a player can receive.
“It’s definitely something that you pride yourself on,” he said. “I know I try to pride myself on that. Having that noticed by your peers, they’re the guys you’re working with everyday, so that’s the biggest honor to be recognized by them.”
Head coach Jerry York credited this slump as one of the pivotal reasons behind his goaltender’s turnaround season, as well as a catalyst for his team’s national championship run.
“I think adversity is sometimes good for you,” he said. “He ran into a situation there where he just wasn’t playing the type of hockey he’d like to play, but he just buckled down and worked hard in practice and the mental side of his game became more important during that stretch. I think it’s a great feedback, because every year isn’t going to be easy. There can be some storms in there. It was good for the whole team because they watched him go through that adversity, and bounce back.”
Good for the whole team indeed.
Upon returning to the starting lineup, Milner’s hard work and focus paid off instantly. The team won 19 straight contests with its junior goaltender starting in net for all of them. He finished the season with a 29-5-0 record with a 1.66 goals-against average and 852 saves. In those last 19 games, he was a stalwart between the pipes with a 1.08 goals-against average and 508 saves for a .960 save percentage. His winning percentage (.853) led the NCAA.
Although Milner never had any difficult stretches in comparison to those middle months while in Waterloo, O’Handley watched his former player bounce back and was not surprised by his comeback.
“He was a very good goalie [in Waterloo],” O’Handley said. “I don’t think there was ever any question that he would be successful. There’s an ebb and flow in all seasons for all players, which is certainly magnified when you’re a goaltender. I don’t think when you meet Parker that you’d say he’d ever bow out with his competitive nature. He certainly didn’t. The script doesn’t always go as perfect as it did, but as it was, it went as close to perfect as it could in the end.”
In postseason play, he became the most decorated player in college hockey. After beating Ferris State 4-1 for the National Championship in Tampa, Fla., Milner was named the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player, as well as a member of the All-Tournament team for the NCAA, and the Northeast Regional team. He recorded the highest save percentage in the modern tournament’s history at .982. He went 4-0 with a .50 goal-against average.
Milner goes back to that motivation from his slump as one of the biggest elements in his team’s postseason success.
“You’re never going to get through the Frozen Four and the NCAA tournament without facing adversity,” he said. “Without the adversity that we faced as a group throughout the year, I don’t think we could’ve done what we did.”
Regardless of his individual performance, the now-senior is quick to point to his teammates as the reasons behind his success.
“It’s a huge honor to receive accolades in the Division I ranks,” Milner said. “There are so many skilled players out there, and that’s a huge honor. That being said, I couldn’t do it without the defense in front of me and the scoring output. In the last 19 games, I think we only trailed for like two minutes. I just have an incredible team in front of me. It’d be silly not to mention them.”