Last summer, Boston College hockey coach Jerry York said his goaltending situation was far from clear heading into the 2011-12 campaign. After four years of John Muse, who led the Eagles to two NCAA championships, the netminding picture was closer to murky.
He had one senior (Chris Venti), one junior (Parker Milner), and two freshmen (Brian Billett and Brad Barone) from which to choose.
Milner, who had 22 games of experience to only five for Venti, was the logical choice.
He and the Eagles came out of the gate very strong, earning a record of 8-1-0 in the first nine games, and BC was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
But after 13 straight starts, Milner stumbled in back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Boston University. York went to Billett and then to Venti.
Over the next 12 contests, Milner played just twice as BC bumbled its way to a 5-6-1 mark.
Milner continued to work hard in practice, although his confidence was shaken, and York went back to the Pittsburgh native Jan. 27 in a game against New Hampshire.
He earned a victory that night and has been on another roll, winning five straight starts, including the Beanpot championship game Monday night at TD Garden when Bill Arnold scored with 6.4 seconds remaining in overtime to lift BC to a 3-2 win over BU.
If York was uncertain before, he wasn’t after the Beanpot.
“I thought Parker Milner was really tested and came through with a strong, strong performance for us,’’ said York, whose goalie had 32 saves. “That was certainly one of the keys to our game.’’
BC captain Tommy Cross said Milner has rounded into form, and none too soon, as the stretch run is upon them.
“He’s really come on strong lately,’’ said Cross. “We have competition at every position on our team, and goaltender is no different.
“Those guys push each other every day, and I think it’s made Parker better. His attitude has remained very positive and I think he really took it upon himself personally to take over that spot.
“He played great, he was a rock for us in net. And he definitely showed some real maturity so it was great to see.’’
Milner was sporting an ear-to-ear grin after the Beanpot win, saying it was difficult to put his feelings into words.
“It’s tough to describe, it was amazing, a phenomenal feeling,’’ he said. “It’s just something that you dream about whenever you commit to Boston College. It’s one of the cooler things to win. To hold that Beanpot and be the champs of Boston, it’s incredible.’’
Though he didn’t specifically say so, it was a taste of revenge for Milner, who was shelled by BU in a 5-0 loss Nov. 13 and dropped a 5-3 decision to the Terriers during his slump Dec. 2. But Monday, Milner was all about the positives.
“The crowd was incredible, as you would expect, and everyone was pretty tired, so I think everyone was just trying to end it quick, so it was up and down,’’ he said. “It was great action and incredible to be a part of and a night I’ll never forget.’’
Milner said the earlier tribulations were tough to go through but he was sure they wouldn’t last.
“You go into a season knowing it’s going to be up and down,’’ said Milner. “You start as good as we did and obviously, you’re happy with that. You know you’re not going to lose [just] one game all year.
“That being said, I would’ve liked to have a better middle part. The guys who went in, Brian and Chris, they’re great goalies and I can’t be like, ‘How can you not play me every game?’ because they’re great and they deserve to play to.
“It’s up and down but it’s great to get back in and get this win.’’
Milner said the latter part of November and the early part of December were difficult; he tried to get through it the best way he could.
“I’d like to think that my confidence never wavered, but I’m sure it did,’’ said Milner. “It’s tough. We had a tough loss in Notre Dame and that kind of hurt it. But it’s good to try to persevere through it. All those hard times are worth it to get here.’’
The Beanpot trophy has a special place in Milner’s heart, and he joins such BC standouts as Muse and Cory Schneider as winners.
“Every time you go out there, especially in a Beanpot game, you want to honor the Eagle jersey and honor those who came before you,’’ he said. “With other goaltenders who have won the Beanpot like Cory Schneider and John Muse, it’s great.’’