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BC 5, UNH 1

At BC, it’s Milner time

Junior goalie stymies UNH

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / October 16, 2011

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DURHAM, N.H. - During the offseason, Jerry York said his Boston College hockey team faced many questions about goaltending after the departure of John Muse, the school’s all-time leader in saves, as well as second in wins (89) and third in goals-against average (2.40) and shutouts (12).

Last night, Parker Milner provided an answer to the question of Muse’s successor.

The junior from Pittsburgh, who served as Muse’s understudy the last two seasons, backstopped the top-ranked Eagles to a 5-1 victory over New Hampshire in BC’s Hockey East opener before a Whittemore Center sellout crowd of 6,501.

“We really didn’t know,’’ York said, when asked to sum up what his expectations were for the goalie position after Muse’s departure. “It was the biggest question mark we had all summer: ‘How are we going to handle this transition?’ We had a freshman goaltender coming in in Brian Billett. We had Chris Venti, whose been here for a number of years.

“But Parker, he was a young guy who we thought might be able to do it, but we weren’t sure. Tonight, and even in [Friday] night’s game [against Denver], he’s really improving, so I feel really good about the goaltending position. But I didn’t know this summer. I was concerned.’’

With the exception of Nick Sorkin’s power-play goal at 2:24 of the first period, UNH’s first tally of the season, snapping a drought spanning 122:24, Milner stopped everything the Wildcats (0-3-0, 0-3-0) threw at him. He made 39 saves to help the Eagles (3-1-0 overall) rebound from a 4-2 loss to third-ranked Denver Friday night at Conte Forum.

Milner outdueled counterpart Matt Di Girolamo (20 saves), who gave up five goals, including three in the first period - to Brian Dumoulin at 1:30, Paul Carey at 6:26, and a power-play tally by Bill Arnold at 16:10 that clanged off the far post and in.

“It’s our first Hockey East game and it’s definitely the biggest game we’ve had so far,’’ said Milner, who has been in net for all four games this season, marking the first time he’s strung together that many games since his junior days with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL.

“Tonight was a big game for me, personally, because I thought I hadn’t really played my best until tonight,’’ Milner added. “After [Friday] night, I wanted to have a good bounce-back game. So I was happy with the game tonight, for sure.’’

It didn’t take much for Milner to impress his coach, either.

“It’s still October and the games are going to get bigger and more important, but he showed so much,’’ York said. “His ability to stop the puck tonight was really something.’’

After Sorkin’s goal answered Dumoulin’s tally, the Wildcats sent all manner of shots at Milner.

“Rebounds, point shots, screened shots,’’ York said. “I mean, it was just really, really good. I wish I could sit here and say, geez, we did a lot of great things in other parts of our game and that led to the victory, but it was strictly goaltending.’’

Trailing, 3-1, the Wildcats ratcheted up their offensive intensity, outshooting the Eagles, 34-12, over the final two periods.

“I’d say it was a little busy in the second there when we took a few penalties,’’ said Milner, noting how UNH outshot the Eagles in that period, 20-9. “But the shots maybe were a little misleading. I thought the guys did a great job of keeping them on the outside. Most of their shots were guys swinging in on the big ice and taking shots from bad angles.’’

While goals by Chris Kreider (off a faceoff victory) at 14:23 in the second and Johnny Gaudreau at 9:20 of the third enabled the Eagles to claim their first conference victory, York knew who was directly responsible.

“It wasn’t very hard for me to figure out or try to rationalize why we are getting on a bus with a victory,’’ York said. “Clearly, it was Parker Milner. He was outstanding. It’s almost unfathomable to me that there weren’t five or six goals scored tonight by the Wildcats. Some of the saves were just spectacular. It wasn’t our forecheck, it wasn’t our special teams, it wasn’t our faceoff play. It was strictly our goaltending.’’

Of that, there was no question.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.