Andrew Miller ’13 is not known for his shooting.
The smooth-passing center on the men’s hockey team tends to pass the puck before he takes a chance on goal himself. He admits that head coach Keith Allain ’80 often tells him to shoot more often.
But Miller explains that it’s difficult to change his play, though he tries to listen to his coach.
“I don’t consider myself a pass-first guy,” he said. “I just try to make the play and get the puck to the guy in the slot or by the net with the best scoring chance.”
Miller has “made the play” enough this season that he leads Yale’s dangerous offense — which scores at the greatest clip in the country — with 38 points. Most of those have come from passes: only four other players in the nation average more assists per game than he does.
Last weekend, however, Miller took the shots, breaking up two scoreless ties in two nights with well-placed wristers. He added a third goal to seal Yale’s Saturday win over Cornell.
Against Colgate, he received a behind the back pass from linemate Brian O’Neill ’12 as he skated, open, toward the goalie. He hesitated for an instant before sending a shot through the visiting goalie’s legs. The crowd rose to its feet and Miller embraced his teammates on the ice.
But they were not Miller’s only friends at the game.
Miller quickly skated to the boards in front of the student section, where a pair of Eli fans were holding up a sign decorated like a large red Staples “easy button.” Miller punched the glass in front of the sign. The students roared.
Miller said that the celebration was spontaneous and arose from the excitement of the timely goal. But he added that he knew his suitemates were bringing a sign.
“We thought it’d be funny — and pretty fitting — to put [the sign] up after Yale’s goals considering how well these guys have played this year,” Steven Morales ’13, who lives with Miller, wrote in an e-mail.
Morales said he and a group of 10–15 other Branford students are regulars in the front row of the student section at home games, adding that they attend mostly because they are hockey and Yale athletics fans. Miller says his suitemates’ devotion to the team is a two-way street.
“They give me grief all the time,” he said. “They let me know when we didn’t do too well or when we should have won.”
Miller’s suitemates have had little to fault him for recently. The young forward has increased his scoring pace as the season has continued, and has 12 points — a balanced six goals and six assists — in his past seven games.
That production has accompanied Yale’s recovery from a three-game road losing streak, a correlation that Brian O’Neill ’12 — Yale’s second leading scorer and a linemate of Miller’s — said is no coincidence.
“When Miller is skating and creating chances, that’s when our line is at its best,” he said.
Miller has brought that production to Yale’s top lines since early freshman year. He arrived in New Haven with a pedigree from lower levels of the sport. He was Michigan’s high school Mr. Hockey in 2007, and USA Hockey’s national junior player of the year in 2009 after a standout campaign with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League.
Months later, he scored a goal in his Bulldog debut. Soon, he was playing with O’Neill on one of Yale’s top lines and on his way to the school record for assists in a freshman season.
O’Neill and Miller had first skated on the same line in Chicago during their years in junior hockey, and the chemistry remains, according to Miller.
“We see the ice the same way,” he said.
O’Neill has turned into the goal-scorer of the duo, while Miller, despite his three-goal outburst last weekend, is the star setup man. Chris Cahill ’11 joins them on the right wing as another scoring threat. Though Allain encourages his sophomore star to shoot more, he also admires Miller’s vision on the ice.
“He has this ability to dictate the pace of the game,” the coach said. “He can skate as fast as anybody, but he can also cut back and take his time and look for second waves.”
The team takes advantage of that playmaking ability on the power play, when Allain often sends Miller out instead of a second defenseman. That switch allows more room for the Michigan native to set up the three other forwards on the ice with him.
Miller is the only sophomore to have played in all 63 games over the past two seasons.