Ice Hockey, Sports

Millan stands tall in BC-BU baptism

In the final minute of Saturday’s game against No. 2/3 Boston College, with No. 7/5 Boston University clinging to a 2-1 lead, freshman netminder Kieran Millan hugged the left post tight to fend off a wild Eagle flurry. BC goaltender John Muse was on the bench in favor of an extra attacker as Millan moved to his right for a Joe Whitney offering that was blocked by the BU defense. Millan slid back to his left to force senior Benn Ferriero to put a shot just wide of the net. And as freshman Jimmy Hayes tried desperately to stuff the puck inside the post, there was Millan, pads together tight to the post, to say no.

Moments after Millan denied Hayes, the puck trickled into the neutral zone where sophomore Nick Bonino laid out and knocked it down the ice into the BC net as time expired. The defensive stand and subsequent empty-netter assured the Terriers three points in their weekend series with the Eagles, eliminating doubts created by a string of lackluster efforts in November.

Millan, in his first encounter with the BU-BC rivalry, performed admirably between the pipes for two straight nights. He made just 39 saves over the course of the weekend, but his increasingly strong positioning and lightning-quick glove guided the Terriers to Friday’s 1-1 tie and Saturday’s 3-1 victory.

‘He played spectacular ‘-‘- there’s no question about it,’ BU coach Jack Parker said. ‘He played with poise and made some huge saves. They’re going to get opportunities and when they do, they’ve got some snipers. He made a couple of huge 10-bellers.’

Opposite Muse, the sophomore standout with a faster glove and quicker lateral movement than any goalie BU has faced this year, Millan held his own. Muse (35 saves) had a night to remember Friday, using everything he had ‘-‘- glove, blockers, pads and stick ‘-‘- to keep pucks out of the net. The BC goalie made spectacular saves all night, including one when he used his right skate to stop a point-blank shot from freshman Chris Connolly on a 3-on-1.

Millan, not to be outdone by Muse, chose quality over quantity. Freshmen Cam Atkinson and Barry Almeida developed an odd-man rush for BC with 10 minutes left in the third period. With Atkinson skating up the right side and attention drawn toward Almeida, Atkinson lifted a hard wrister on net. Millan threw up his left hand, snaring the puck mid-flight and keeping the score tied at one.

Perhaps more impressive than that highlight-reel play was an adjustment Millan made after an early mistake. After senior John McCarthy’s goal gave the Terriers an early lead, BC captain Brock Bradford skated in toward goal on a breakaway, waited until Millan was deep in his net and slid the puck past him. Bradford (fifth in the nation with 23 points) produced another breakaway in the second period after a turnover by sophomore Colin Wilson. Rather than allow Bradford to dictate the play, Millan stepped up quickly to cut off the shooting lane and force Bradford to take a slap shot that went wide of the right post. It didn’t go down as a save for Millan, but it was an example of the progression he has made since October.

‘He made a lot of key saves. When you’ve got a goalie like that behind you, it makes everyone more comfortable. It’s great to have him back there playing well,’ senior Brandon Yip said Friday.

With fellow freshman goaltender Grant Rollheiser out with a groin strain, Millan was asked to play two consecutive games this weekend for the first time in his career. The short rest was no issue for the rookie Saturday, as he repeatedly bailed out his teammates following defensive miscues. Junior Eric Gryba whiffed twice in an attempt to clear the puck in the third period, allowing BC to crash the net and create a scrum. Millan held his position and turned away two quick shots to erase Gryba’s error.

The weekend performance against BC was one that could turn the tide for BU as it enters the second half of the season. More importantly, the team might have witnessed the emergence of a No. 1 goaltender.

‘Going into the weekend knowing that he was going to get both games, he really saw it as an opportunity for himself,’ junior defenseman Brian Strait said. ‘He took advantage of it.’

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