Miller looks to be leader for Gophers

Sarah Mitchell

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A rosy-cheeked Nate Miller was no doubt thrilled by his performance against Colorado College on Saturday. Sporting maroon breezers and a gray T-shirt, the Gophers winger rushed to sound out all the syllables in describing his two-goal game at World Arena.
For the second time in Minnesota’s last four games, the senior hockey captain provided his team with the game-winner. This time, Minnesota won 2-1 to split with the Tigers.
“It’s definitely not my first and foremost role, but I feel like I can contribute and that’s something I can do here,” Miller said. “When the opportunity arises it’s nice, especially when we’re in a bit of a scoring slump.
“I think the coaches kind of challenge all the guys, especially the older guys. (They say) ‘Hey, pick it up a little bit here.’ We’ve got to find some guy to do something and luckily I was fortunate enough to be there.”
Miller tallied his first goal in the second period on an open shot at Tigers goaltender Jeff Sanger. Minnesota’s first goal of the weekend gave them a 1-0 lead.
The veteran scored again to break a 1-1 tie halfway through the third period. Miller grabbed the rebound from sophomore John Pohl’s shot and put Minnesota ahead for good.
“I was coming in for the rebound and (the puck) was kind of wobbling,” Miller said. “The guy who cleared it was lying there and I thought, ‘Hey alright, I’ll fire this one.’ It found the back of the net, so that was exciting.”
Miller was quick to mention Pohl and senior forward Rico Pagel. Both were credited with an assist on the go-ahead goal.
“Rico was crashing the net, too,” Miller said. “That cleared up some room.”
For the second time this season, Miller played the hero, an unusual role for him. Known more for being a brute than for his scoring finesse, Miller showcased his rare side on Oct. 29, providing the game-winner in a dramatic 6-5 overtime victory over then top-ranked Boston College.
The winger now has three points on the year, all of which are goals. The point total halves Miller’s performance from a season ago.
Gophers coach Don Lucia credited Miller for the victory, but said others have to chip in, too.
“We have to work hard to score goals, we have to work hard to defend and we have to play a complete game,” Lucia said. “We’re not a team of stars.”
So far, Miller looks poised for the leading role.

Sarah Mitchell covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]