There’s nothing stopping Deer Lakes hockey standout Miller

Sunday, February 3, 2019 | 9:57 PM

Shane Miller’s favorite hockey player is Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist, a player known for his energy and being a pest in the crease.

“I like how he grinds in front of the net and uses his physicality,” Miller said. “He’s an awesome player to watch.”

Miller is a little smaller than Hornqvist, but when Deer Lakes coach Blaise Steadman described the standout sophomore’s game, he used a key word often associated with the Penguins’ Swedish winger: competitiveness.

A willingness to outwork opponents even when Miller is receiving a lot of attention from opponents has aided in a breakout campaign.

Miller has 22 goals and 12 assists (34 points) in 14 games for the Lancers this season and ranks 10th in PIHL Class A in scoring.

“What separates Shane is that he has a competitive nature above and beyond what you see from most high school kids,” Steadman said. “His drive is always there.

“Shane’s a shorter kid, but he’s strong on his skates. His hands are very good, and he’s quick. He’s able to do things that I don’t think people expect. All-around, he’s a very good player.”

Miller got to show his talents at the PIHL Class A All-Star game last Sunday, where he scored a pair of goals to help Team Blue to a 10-3 win over Team Gold. It was his first All-Star selection.

Miller got his start in hockey at age 4 and also plays for the Esmark Stars 15U club team. He has traveled to Minnesota, Texas, Connecticut and Ohio with Esmark for showcases this season.

When he’s been on the ice with the Lancers, Miller usually puts on a scoring exhibition. He’s scored at least a point in 10 of 14 games and has scored three or more points in seven. He also has two four-goal games and a trio of hat tricks.

One of those hat tricks came against Freeport, in which Deer Lakes (2-12-1) snapped a 12-game losing streak with a 5-4 win. Miller scored twice on the power play in the first and assisted on a shorthanded goal by Luke Norkus to give the Lancers a 3-0 lead. He added an even strength goal in the second to increase the lead to 4-0 and Deer Lakes held off a late Freeport rally to secure the victory.

It was a welcomed triumph over a rival after enduring a difficult stretch.

“It felt awesome to win with the boys,” Miller said. “We have eight seniors on the team, and they were excited after that game. I just shot the puck at the net and found loose rebounds and, thankfully, they went in.”

Injuries to an already short bench have hampered the Lancers this season. Deer Lakes has 14 skaters, and Steadman said they’ve only had their complete lineup once this season. That has allowed teams to focus more on Miller, putting double teams and shadows on him.

“All you have to do is look at the stats and you can see he stands out,” Steadman said. “I do the same thing as a head coach for our opponents. I’d say we have two players on our team, Shane Miller and Luke Norkus, which get the focus of other teams quite a bit. We’ve put a lot on Shane. He plays a lot. He’s a workhorse. I can put him out there for a three-minute shift and it doesn’t seem to faze him.”

Miller’s production hasn’t dipped even as the focus on him grows. He hasn’t had back-to-back games without a point, and he’s had a hat trick in consecutive games, including a 5-point effort in an 8-7 loss to Blackhawk.

The best counteraction plan has been to keep plugging away despite more attention and the results have followed.

“In a game, you really don’t think about it that much,” Miller said. “You just have to keep your feet moving and move the puck faster.”

Miller has kept a positive attitude during a difficult season in terms of wins and losses. After playing hockey for club teams exclusively for a few years he joined the Deer Lakes last season as a freshman and has enjoyed his time growing with the program.

“I know the team isn’t doing that well this season, but you have to keep having fun when you’re playing hockey,” Miller said. “If you aren’t having any fun, then why even play the sport? I’m having fun playing with classmates. You make better friends that way.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.


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