Milner had to earn keep in net, but when he ﬁnally took over, the Eagles took off
Former Bruins president Harry Sinden used to say that the only people who understand goaltenders are other goaltenders.
The stereotype is that theyre strange, theyre excessively superstitious, and/or are antisocial.
Boston College goalie Parker Milner is none of those. Milner, a junior from Pittsburgh, is more class clown than anything else. He loves a good practical joke and it is nearly always at the expense of one of the Eagles forwards.
During our freshman year, [forward] Brooks Dyroff did something to him, so Parker went to the dining hall and bought shrimp and raw fish and hid it around Brooks Dyroffs room, recounted junior center Pat Mullane. He hid it in shoes and cabinets and closets, so for a good two or three weeks, Brooks Dyroffs room smelled like old fish.
Mullane said he can relate; Milner has set him up a few times.
I would agree that I am a frequent target, Parker Milner does come after me quite a bit, Mullane said with a laugh. Why? Im not sure, but I think I deal with it pretty well.
Mullane agreed it is unusual that the goaltender is the biggest jokester in the locker room.
Goalies are a different breed, without a doubt, said Mullane. It is odd that Parker and [senior goalie] Chris Venti are two of the loudest guys and they kind of get everything rolling in the locker room.
But there were times when Milners season wasnt a laughing matter.
After a strong start, the Eagles began to stumble as a whole and Milner, in particular, struggled. After a four-year run by starter John Muse, which included two national championships, Milner put so much pressure on himself to fill Muses shoes he lost his job to Venti and freshman Brian Billett.
BC lost to archrival Boston University, 5-0, on Nov. 13 during which Milner made just 15 saves. It was the first time the Terriers shut out the Eagles in more than 28 years.
On Nov. 18 at Notre Dame, BC fell to the Fighting Irish with Milner between the pipes and coach Jerry York decided to go with Billett, then Venti. Over the next 12 games, Milner suited up in just two of them. Instead of sulking, he started working harder in practice and spent 40 minutes two mornings a week with goalie coach Jim Logue, associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh, and assistant coach Greg Brown in addition to the practices. He replaced his catching glove with one that was more pliable.
I was trying to continue to get better, said Milner. I did lose my job for a little while. You have to accept that for what it is. It is tough sometimes, but whenever youre really good friends with the other guys who are playing, it makes it easier.
He said he wasnt conscious of any additional motivation to get the No. 1 job back, although hes sure it was inside him somewhere.
Theres something that just happens without you even thinking about it once you lose something, said Milner. I wanted it really bad. I think I just kept plugging away. I was just lucky to get it back.
He said his play needed tweaking and he worked on the areas in which he was struggling.
Things that werent going well at the beginning of the year, my glove, rebounds, long shots, said Milner. A lot of it was really simple stuff. At times, its frustrating to work on when youre taking slap shots from the blue line. But I needed that and I think I needed people to push me through it and do things I didnt want to do.
I dont want to sit there and take shots from the blue line. You dont want to have to dumb the game down to yourself. Sometimes you need people to tell you that you need to do it because youre not good at that. I think Ive gotten better, but I havent mastered them. You never want to say youve mastered them. So much about goaltending is out of your control.
York said the way Milner practiced made the coach go back to him. Since Milner regained the job Jan. 27, the Eagles have not lost. They have won 17 in a row heading into Thursday nights Frozen Four matchup against Minnesota.
His work ethic raised in practice and his play raised in practice, York said. He sought out Jim Logue for extra work. All of a sudden, he got on a roll. Hes surpassed all of our expectations as to where hed be and I think the whole confidence of the team is raised. The ebb and flow of your club is tied directly to the goaltenders play. Its hard to hide a goaltender who isnt playing well.
Last summer, York wasnt sure what to expect in the net. Milner had the most experience, but he wasnt a sure thing. Not long before the Beanpot, York said he felt he had three B goaltenders (freshman Brad Barone has yet to see action) and was hoping one would raise their game. Although it took a while, Milners numbers are hard to overlook 27-5-0 record, 1.70 goals-against average, and a .935 save percentage. He had back-to-back shutouts over Air Force and defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA Northeast Regionals, which propelled the Eagles to the Frozen Four.
Defenseman Patrick Wey, who grew up with Milner, said hes not surprised.
Ive always had faith in him because Ive played with him for so long, said Wey. I think it was a matter of getting hot at the right time. He started to build confidence with every game in this streak.
With that, I think the coaches confidence started to build. I dont think his work ethic ever changed, he was always working. Hes always been the same person Ive known growing up. I think he trusted the process. Now hes seeing the fruits of how consistent his attitude and work ethic have been.
Wey said when they were kids, Milners work ethic was a little too intense at times.
He was really committed, probably too committed in the summers, said Wey. Wed always make fun of him because hed be gone the whole summer going from [goalie] camp to [goalie] camp. Hes not the type of goalie I would describe as a head case.
Hes a level-headed kid. He has a few screws loose but relatively speaking, hes normal. Were really goofy guys, self-deprecating. Hes serious when he needs to be. He recognizes the challenges of being a starting goaltender.
Before the season started, Milner was prepared to fight for the job.
Its kind of like the [Tim] Tebow thing with [Mark] Sanchez, said Milner. Everyone is seeing that as a negative but having good goalies behind you, or competing with good goalies or having good goalies in front of you, it makes everyone better. Its definitely in your head, who you are competing with. You know everyone around you is good but you have to attack the job and say you want it to be mine. Its the competitive nature in all of us.
Venti said once Milner realized he didnt have to be Muse, the pressure all but disappeared.
Those are hard shoes to fill, said Venti. John will go down as one of the best goaltenders to ever come through [BC], if not the best, and its hard not to compare yourself to that. Once he relaxed and got that confidence back, youre seeing how good he can be.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.