As time ticked away in overtime of Boston College's Nov. 19 game against Notre Dame, it looked like the Eagles and Irish were on their way to a 2-2 tie.
With 1.1 seconds remaining, Notre Dame's Bryan Rust flicked a desperation shot to the net. The puck slipped through Boston College goaltender Parker Milner for the winning goal -- and a soft one at that.
That came one game after Milner gave up five goals on 15 shots against crosstown rival Boston University, a performance he duplicated against the Terriers Dec. 2.
Milner, a junior, lost his starting job and, perhaps, much of his confidence, which can doom a goalie.
- Game 1
- Matchup: Union (26-7-7) vs. Ferris State (25-11-5).
- When: 4:30 p.m. today.
- TV: ESPN2.
- The skinny: Both teams are making their first appearances in the Frozen Four. ... Union is the first ECAC team to make the Frozen Four since Cornell in 2003. ... Jeremy Welsh leads Union with 27 goals. ... Penguins winger Chris Kunitz played at Ferris State.
- Game 2
- Matchup: Boston College (31-10-1) vs. Minnesota (28-13-1).
- When: 8 p.m. today.
- TV: ESPN2.
- The skinny: Unlike the "rookies" in Game 1, these two programs have combined for 43 appearances in the national semifinals. ... Minnesota's Kyle Rau leads all freshmen with 43 points, including 18 goals. ... Boston College is the No. 1 overall seed. The Eagles were 6-9-1 at one point.
Except, for Milner, it didn't.
Four months later, Milner, a Mt. Lebanon native, will lead the Eagles into the Frozen Four as arguably the hottest goaltender in college hockey.
"Parker, he's not even close to what he was in November and December," Boston College coach Jerry York said at his news conference Wednesday.
"I thought goaltending was going to be a problem for us. Now, it's a strength. He's matured, emotionally he's matured. His game's just a lot better."
Milner admitted it was frustrating to lose the starting job for 10 midseason games, but also said he agreed with York's decision.
"We all love playing, but the Notre Dame game, a couple of the BU games, I didn't earn my next start," he said. "That's what I kind of like to do, earn my next start, and I didn't do that."
The junior re-entered the starting lineup Jan. 27 against New Hampshire and has held the job since. Despite the early struggles, Milner finished the season with a 1.70 goals against average (fourth best in Division I) and a .935 save percentage (third best).
He saved his finest performances, though, for the postseason. In Boston College's two wins in the Northeast Regional two weeks ago, he posted back-to-back shutouts against Air Force and Minnesota-Duluth to seal the Eagles' trip to the Frozen Four, which starts today in Tampa, Fla.
Milner saved 53 shots that weekend, but quickly deflected praise to his teammates.
"Whenever you can see every puck, that's huge for me," he said. "If there's not a lot of traffic, which there wasn't last weekend, and I can see it, then the onus is on me to kind of track the puck and control my rebounds."
Now, Milner will be tasked with bringing Boston College its second national championship in the past three seasons. The Eagles face Minnesota tonight and could play Ferris State or Union Saturday in the national championship game.
Even though Milner never has played in a Frozen Four, he backed up John Muse as a freshman on the 2010 championship team. Milner said he also has talked a lot these past two weeks with Matt Lombardi, a senior forward on that team.
"Half of our team has already kind of been through this," he said. "We know what to expect and we know that we're going to have to push ourselves to look past all the distractions and whatnot."
Even though he hasn't lived in Pittsburgh since his sophomore year at Mt. Lebanon High School in '07, Milner still considers himself a Pittsburgher at heart. He has a Kris Letang jersey hanging in his closet and is cautiously optimistic about the Penguins playoff chances.
While all his focus is on getting two wins in Tampa, Milner said he definitely was aware of where the '13 Frozen Four will be held: Consol Energy Center.
"Not to think about that yet, but that's incredible that it's in my hometown my senior year," he said.
As special as that would be, it would be even better if he came home as a defending national champion.sportscollegenational
Sam Werner: email@example.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG