ORONO, Maine – Last spring, after a second straight conference championship-less season for the Boston University men’s hockey team, Kieran Millan had a decision to make: leave school early to go pro with the Colorado Avalanche or stay at BU for his senior season.
On one side, he had a lot of money up for grabs, as well as a couple of teammates doing the same thing. Classmate David Warsofsky bolted to join the Boston Bruins organization, and then-senior captain Joe Pereira temporarily left BU to join the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the New York Islanders’ AHL affiliate. And with a seemingly open starting goalie spot in the pros, no one could blame Millan for taking his talents to Denver.
But on the other end, he had a chance to cement his legacy as one of the best – if not the best – goaltenders in BU hockey’s lengthy and decorated history.
The senior netminder chose the latter, and after the No. 11/12 Terriers’ 5-1 win over the University of Maine Saturday night at Alfond Arena, it more and more looks like Millan made the right decision: with the 30 saves he racked up against the Black Bears (6-7-2, 5-6-1 Hockey East), he passes Sean Fields as the all-time BU saves leader with 3,057.
“It’s definitely an honor to win it, to hold a record like that just because there’s been so many good goalies in this program over the years,” Millan said after beating out Fields, who stopped 3,055 shots during his four-year (2000-04) career.
The choice, however, might not be a reflection of the education-conscious and BU-committed Millan that first appears. According to Millan, the Avalanche told him to stay in school, a decision he said “was fine.”
“It wasn’t really my decision to make,” Millan said. “That was the Colorado Avalanche’s decision and they thought it was best for my development to come back for another year.
“Obviously getting the opportunity to play professional hockey has been a goal my entire life, but you can’t take away an education and an opportunity to set a few records, so I was thrilled to come back and I’m pleased with the way the team’s playing this year.”
What matters most for the Terriers (10-5-1, 8-4-1 Hockey East), though, is that he indeed came back, is playing well and has broken multiple records. Earlier this year, Millan took over the all-time BU wins record, also previously held by Fields, and has since extended it to 69.
The most recent of those wins have come since mid-November, around the time the Terriers started to put it all together. Coach Jack Parker constantly credits Millan for the team’s improved penalty kill and a lot of the overall success. Saturday night was no different.
“He was great tonight when he had to be. He made a couple of unbelievable saves,” Parker said. “When he’s good, it’s almost like ‘Here I am, hit me. Okay I’ll stand here, now hit me again.’“
This season on the whole and saves record in particular is just another notch in Millan’s belt, another line on his resume. It all started when he became the starting goalie as a freshman due to a Grant Rollheiser injury, collecting 776 saves with a .921 save percentage en route to the 2009 national championship.
The following two years, during which the team saw less success, were in some ways more successful for Millan. In 2009-10 he stopped 797 attempts (.891 save percentage) – “too many of those guys took the year off on him,” Parker said of the defensemen – and in his junior campaign last year he added 1085 more (.919 save percentage), earning him team MVP honors.
“When we’ve needed him, he’s been terrific,” Parker said.
Senior forward Corey Trivino, who himself has played a key role this season with a team-high 13 goals, has matured as a Terrier right alongside Millan, and is not all that surprised at the goalie’s records and success.
“Since freshman year, I knew he was pretty special and he was going to break records every year,” Trivino said. “He’s living up to his potential right now, so I’m really happy for him and hopefully we’ll win a national championship this year too.”