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Area Male Athlete: Flyers' Miller scoring at elevated pace

Thomas Miller Year: Junior School: Little Falls Sport: Hockey Position: Left wing Highlights: Finished the week with five goals and four assists Thomas Miller has been a rarity for the Little Falls Flyers. Last season he became the first sophomor...

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Thomas Miller

Year: Junior

School: Little Falls

Sport: Hockey

Position: Left wing

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Highlights: Finished the week with five goals and four assists

Thomas Miller has been a rarity for the Little Falls Flyers.

Last season he became the first sophomore captain in Tony Couture's tenure as head boys hockey coach. Miller's season was interrupted with a torn ACL, but he still managed five goals and six assists.

As a freshman, Miller landed a spot on the Flyers' first line. He registered eight goals and 20 points to help Little Falls to the Section 6-1A finals.

This season, Miller is back. He's healthy. He's a captain again and he's leading the Flyers to a 10-7-1 record, which includes a five-game unbeaten streak.

The three-year varsity veteran exploded for three goals and four assists in the Flyers' 13-3 blowout of Wadena-Deer Creek Jan. 13.

Miller said he had fun collecting so many points against W-DC, but he was happier to see so many of his classmates register career first goals or points. He said that game will be a fun memory to look back on.

He followed his points bombardment with two more goals against St. Cloud Tech Jan. 17. Miller's final goal came at the 16:52 mark of the third period and lifted the Flyers to a 4-3 victory.

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"We were ahead 3-1 before they scored two goals in the third to tie it up," said Miller. "We were down in the dumps for a little bit, but we knew we had to fight back. The puck was in the corner and we brought it out and got it to the middle and Connor was over on the side. I can't think of another player who would have done this; there was only eight seconds left on the clock and your first instinct is to shoot the puck, but he saw me open on the other side so he dished it across the ice and I ended up getting a shot off.

"It was great to get the win. We consider them a rival and it was a tough game. There was a lot of chirping going on so it felt good to feel like I sealed the win."

Couture said he wasn't expecting a goal at the time and was preparing for overtime. But Miller and his first-line mates of Connor Jorgensen and Landon Bjorge have been on fire since Christmas.

Miller leads the team with 14 goals and 25 points. Prior to Christmas break, Miller was fourth on the team with just nine points.

"He's played very well for us lately," said Couture. "One of the things we have been lacking is scoring. In our first five losses we didn't even score a goal. Thomas has stepped up his game along with Landon and Connor. That line has been playing very well since Christmas.

"One of the things about Thomas is his great attitude. He's very strong and active in practice and in games. He's always leading by example. He has a great work ethic and he makes sure everyone else is working hard. He does a good job of getting the team going. Part of that is his good attitude and his strong work ethic.

"He's also a very fluid skater. He's one of the fastest kids and has a pretty good shot."

Miller has climbed into the top 10 scoring list in Section 6-1A. Little Falls is 5-1-1 since Christmas.

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"I would say our work ethic has really improved and we're really working as one unit," Miller said. "We're being more positive and we have each other's back. Coach has been on us about working hard. We're doing that and we're moving the puck well and putting it in the net."

This is also one of the longest stretches Miller has stayed at one position. In Squirts, he played goalie, said Couture. During his Bantam days he moved to defense before moving to forward right before being promoted to varsity. Couture said Miller was a pretty good goalie coming up through the ranks.

"He's the type of player you love to have on your team," said Couture. "He is someone you want your son to grow up to be. I want my son to be like him. He's the first sophomore captain that I've ever had. That speaks volumes of the type of person he is. He wasn't our best player at the time, but he was our best leader. He continued to improve into one of our best players. Hopefully he'll continue to improve right into next year."

Miller's goal is to attend the University of Notre Dame. He didn't dismiss the possibility of playing sports at the next level, but only if they helped him get to his dream of attending the Indiana college.

"I just fell in love with the college," said Miller. "I went on a visit with some family members last year. My ultimate goal is to go to school there. If I can play a sport there, great, but you have to be super good. I have some interest in still playing sports and it would be nice to be able to do it as long as I can, but academics are my first priority.

"I have a lot of things I want to accomplish and sports aren't in the mix. If they can take me somewhere, great, but I would like to go to Notre Dame."

Other notable performances:

Basketball: Hank Raph, Pine River-Backus, scored 27 points against Verndale.

Aaron Weber, Pierz, finished with 23 points against Howard Lake-Waverly.

Wyatt Sanford, Aitkin, scored 28 points against Hinckley-Finlayson.

Noah Gindorff, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots against Esko and 17 points and 11 rebounds against Detroit Lakes.

Daniel Hudrlik, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots against Esko.

Mitch Blaha, Verndale, scored 24 points against Hancock.

Wrestling: Brandon Ortman and Kolton Eischens, Pierz, each finished the week 6-0.

Ethan Kimber and Holton Truax, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale, won individual titles at the New London-Spicer Invite.

Luke Pelarski and Silas Berg, Aitkin, finished the week 6-0.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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