Miller proves he’s cool customer
by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | Photo by Bob Davies
Landon Miller grew up as a Barrie Colts fan, but on Saturday he took them down.
The 17-year-old (2006 birth year) netminder was exceptional from beginning to end as the Soo Greyhounds stopped the Colts 4-1 in front of 3,597 at GFL Memorial Gardens.
Agreeing it was his best OHL performance to date, Miller spoke of how defeating his hometown team was special.
“I was a Colts fan, so it’s pretty cool to beat them,” said the Barrie native, who flashed an impressive glove hand to help improve his personal record to 6-1-0-0. “I remember having a Colts jersey when I was younger so this feels cool.”
In his first full season with the Hounds, Miller, who spent last season with the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds, said the start of Saturday’s game was like any other.
“It definitely didn’t feel any different until the puck dropped and I saw their jerseys,” said Miller, a six-foot-four, 193-pounder, taken by the Greyhounds in the second round (No. 42 overall) of the 2022 OHL Priority Selections draft. “I thought to myself: ‘This is pretty sweet man.’”
“Fantastic,” said winger Alex Kostov, when asked to rate Miller’s play on a night when the Soo held a 38-35 edge in shots. “Especially because he’s not playing as much as he wants to. But he capitalized tonight and showed why he should play more.”
Minutes after his team improved to 17-8-2-0, head coach John Dean left little doubt as to how he analyzed his rookie goalie’s play.
“Landon Miller was an absolute beast tonight,” said Dean, whose club is slated to visit Sudbury on Wednesday (7:05 p.m.). “He oozed confidence. He’s very calm and poised and quiet. When you give a team confidence, it allows guys to play with more freedom.”
Because of that, the coach said he thought the Hounds were a lot more creative offensively than they had been in recent games.
The Greyhounds came out of the gate with energy and purpose, winning pucks and registering an impressive chunk of first period offensive-zone time.
“We played well enough to win in the first and third (periods),” said Soo rearguard Kirill Kudryavtsev, a standout at both ends of the ice. “We took some bad penalties in the second and that gave them momentum. But we were very structured in our third period. It was unbelievable.”
Despite the home side’s rocket start, outshooting the Colts 19-10 in the opening frame, Barrie got things started.
The Colts opened the scoring 6:37 in when Chris Grisolia made a beautiful stretch pass to Roenick Jodoin. He skated in alone, made a left-to-right deke and beat Miller on the stick side.
Just 1:02 later, Christopher Brown fed Connor Clattenburg in front and the Arnprior, Ont., native potted his fourth of the year to make it 1-1.
After struggling on the power play against Saginaw (0-for-14 in two games), the Hounds connected late in the opening frame against Barrie.
Jack Beck fed Arttu Karki, who fired a one-timer past Sam Hillebrandt from the right face-off dot at the 15:49 mark. Karki’s 16th of the season and 11th with the man advantage gave the Soo a lead it would never relinquish.
Kostov, who had an impressive game on the penalty kill, netted a short-handed marker early in the second period to make it 3-1.
Marco Mignosa followed up his own scoring chance by tracking the puck down in the left corner. He skated out, made a pretty move to free himself and fired at Hillebrandt.
While screening the Colts netminder, Kostov got a stick on the shot and was credited with his third goal of the season – all coming in the last four games – at 3:20. “That short-handed goal was a back-breaker,” said Barrie head coach and general manager Marty Williamson, whose club fell to 11-13-0-0. “That got it to 3-1 and that was a big hill to climb.”
In the final frame, Bryce McConnell-Barker, on a beautiful individual effort, capped the scoring at the 12:11 mark. McConnell-Barker sped around the defenceman, cut in on goal and beat Hillebrandt up high.
That’s three goals in three games for the Soo captain, who now has 10 goals on the season.
“Bryce and Owen Allard set the tone for what it looks like when it comes to playing in tight games like that,” said Dean, who liked what he saw in the opening period of the Soo’s sixth game in 10 days. “The fact we had that much energy in our legs after the past two weeks is pretty impressive.”
McConnell-Barker and Karki each finished with a goal and an assist. After visiting the Wolves, the Soo returns home to play Kingston on Friday (7:07 p.m.) and London next Sunday (2:07 p.m.).
Saginaw stopped the Knights 7-5 on Saturday to improve to 16-8-0-1. That’s three points back of the first-place Hounds, but with two games in hand, in the West Division race.