- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

A year ago, Kieran Millan played before home crowds of 700 for the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, had never seen a U.S. college game in person and wondered how he would make the transition from his native Edmonton to bustling Boston.

Cody Reichard was also a long way from the Frozen Four. He played for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League, took three-week road trips to such exotic locales as Topeka, Kan., Wichita Falls, Texas, and Wenatchee, Wash., stayed three and four players to a hotel room and went to Wal-Mart to purchase air mattresses.

From that, Millan and Reichard have come to this: tending goal Saturday, when Millan and Boston University face Reichard and Miami (Ohio) in the national championship game.

The Terriers and RedHawks have reached this stage by relying on freshman goalies who established themselves early (Millan) and late (Reichard) in the season.

Millan, 19, became BU’s No. 1 keeper seven weeks into the season and is 28-2-3.

“We really didn’t know anything about our goalie situation coming into the year,” BU defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “Obviously, it’s worked out.”

Reichard, 22, was benched for nearly a month at midseason, only to re-enter the lineup and then get the every-game call at the beginning of the NCAA tournament.

“It was just a situation where I had to go back to work and work as hard as I could to get back out there,” he said. “Fortunately, things started clicking after I sat for a couple of weeks.”

Reichard grew up in Celina, Ohio, which is 90 minutes from Miami’s Oxford campus. Although he wanted to play for the RedHawks, he never attended a home game or visited campus.

It took several detours for Reichard to earn a scholarship. He played in Fort Wayne, Ind., Lansing, Mich., Indianapolis and Alaska before reaching his goal of playing Division I.

“There were times when it was tough and it was hard,” Reichard said.

One of the hard times came in late January and early February. For the season’s first half, Reichard rotated with Connor Knapp, but in losses to Michigan and Michigan State, Reichard allowed nine goals on 21 shots.

Knapp started the next six games.

“When he went through that little hiccup, we knew he would be back,” coach Enrico Blasi said.

Reichard returned Feb. 13 and is 5-2 since. Days before the NCAA tournament, Blasi decided the flip-flopping was over and Reichard would get the nod. He has stopped 65 of 69 shots in wins against Denver, Minnesota Duluth and Bemidji State.

Millan was in a similar position to Reichard early in the year, rotating with fellow freshman Grant Rollheiser. But when Rollheiser suffered a groin injury, Millan tied and beat Boston College on back-to-back nights. The job was his — he has started 28 of the past 32 games.

“It was my opportunity to show I could play back to back games,” said Millan, who routinely played two and three consecutive games in juniors. “That first weekend, I realized I could establish myself as the starter and hopefully get as much time as possible. Things went well, and things took off from there.”

BU coach Jack Parker said Millan’s calm demeanor didn’t make him nervous about relying on a freshman.

“It subsided before we realized we were going with him,” Parker said. “He was playing a little bit better than [Rollheiser] at that time, but we probably would have still stayed with both of them. When he played his first back-to-back, he was sharp as heck on the second night and it was obvious the kid was going to be fine.”

Millan hoped his road to pro hockey would include a stop in Canada’s Western Hockey League. But he went undrafted and when Lethbridge claimed his rights, he opted for the Junior A-level AJHL, where he could play at least every other game and keep his college eligibility.

“I had never heard of Boston University,” he said. “I would have been a backup in Lethbridge, and I didn’t want to be sitting around at that age.”

BU, Denver and, coincidentally, Miami recruited Millan. The RedHawks offered him a scholarship two years ago that would have started this season.

“It was surprising to see BU’s tradition; I got the brochures and saw that Rick DiPietro and Keith Tkachuk — established NHL veterans — had played there,” he said. “It was too good to pass up.”

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