Hockey Preview: Change Between The Pipes
Parker Milner Moves Into Starter Role In The Crease And Leadership Position On The Defense
Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
This year's Boston College men's hockey team has a different look. No roster change has been more crucial than the one between the pipes. Junior Parker Milner will be put to the test in his first season as the No. 1 goaltender on the depth chart. While many teams and coaches would be worried about the loss of as great a player as former netminder John Muse, the Eagles and head coach Jerry York feel confident in Milner's capabilities.
Although he did not play as big of a role on the team last year due to Muse's solid play, Milner was able to come in during his freshman campaign and make an instant impact. While Muse was recovering from offseason hip surgery, the rookie was thrown into the fire of the Hockey East. In 13 starts, he recorded a 10-2-1 record, along with 2.32 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. (He also came on in relief on Muse during one game.) This early play gave Milner a taste of collegiate hockey.
"In my opinion, the Hockey East is the best league in the country, so playing 14 games in the first year of my career prepared me really well for any team that we play against," Milner said. "Definitely freshman year was big and I got thrown in a few times last year, so having played a little bit consistently throughout the past two years is definitely going to help my transition this year."
Part of York's comfort with Milner taking over in net is the familiarity he has with him from that initial season. At the same time, he realizes that the junior will have to adjust to playing every night.
"We have a pretty good feel for Parker, because he's been with us for two years," he said. "And he's played some really key games for us. He hasn't been in a lot of games because of John Muse's run, but we have a pretty good handle on how he can play on an interim basis. Now we're going to find out how he can play on a consistent basis, Friday, Saturday, Friday, Saturday. He, right now, is our main goaltender."
The expectations are high for the Pittsburgh native, especially after the success of his predecessor. Muse, who started for the Eagles all four years of his career, was a stalwart in the net. Even more importantly, he was nearly unbeatable in the playoffs during his tenure. He finished his postseason career with 21-2 overall record, 2.24 goals against average, and a .924 save percentage. Milner says that playing behind such a clutch performer has made an impact on his own preparation and work ethic.
"Just kind of watching how he conducts himself on and off the ice, on game day and on off days, you can definitely learn a lot," he said. "I think that any goalie who is going to transition into a starting role needs someone to kind of be ahead of them and watch out for them, and I think with John, how he acted every game day with so much focus, so much intensity, it's something to learn."
Despite the pressure of playing in the Hockey East and competing as the No. 1 team in the country, Milner remains confident and eager to take the ice each night and face the country's best competition.
"Well, obviously, you never really know what's going to happen throughout the season, so I want to try to take it one game at a time," he said. "But it's definitely a really exciting experience, having waited two years for kind of my time. I'm really excited to get the opportunity to run with it."
York feels that Milner, while still a work in progress, has certain assets that will make him effective.
"In the history that we've had with Parker, he's shown that he's one of the better puck-handling goaltenders in the country," he said. "He handles pucks to a much better degree than the [Scott] Clemmensens, [Cory] Schneiders, and Muses we've dealt with. Now his ability to stop the puck, that's the key thing now. He handles pucks very well and now he has to stop pucks. He's got good size, mobility and like I said it's going to be a great test for him as we go through the year."
If last week's Ice Breaker tournament showed anything, it is that Milner is prepared to be a strong force for his team. In two games, he went 2-0 with 39 saves, 2.00 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
Behind the certainty of Milner's play, there lies a sense of uncertainty for this year's Eagles. While Muse had Milner behind him for the last couple of seasons, York's search for Milner's backup is still a work in progress.
"We certainly have some capable backups we're looking at, but we haven't had as much of a chance to evaluate our goalies," York said last week. "We've had 10 practices. This will be out 11th today. But most have been of the 40-minute variety. Now, we're just starting to get into longer practices, according to NCAA rules. We'll get a better look at the goaltenders. But we don't have a great handle, except that we know what Parker's done in the past and he's come back in terrific shape."
With the return of senior Chris Venti and the additions of freshmen Brian Billett and Brad Barone, the team certainly has a bit of goalie competition unfolding in the early part of the season.