Miller’s clutch play has lifted the Bruins

Published 8:27 pm Thursday, March 10, 2016

Austin’s Jade Miller leads the NAHL with ten game-winning goals this season. Rocky Hulne/

Austin’s Jade Miller leads the NAHL with ten game-winning goals this season. Rocky Hulne/

When Jade Miller came to the Austin Bruins last season, he was a little known prospect who was from a little North Dakota town that is commonly mistaken for bigger town in North Dakota. This season he’s establishing himself as Captain Clutch.

Miller scored his 10th game winning goal last week for the Bruins and that number leads the NAHL. He has 25 total goals, which is the second most by any Bruin player.

While he’s glad to have the most game-winning goals in the League, Miller admits that not all of his goals were as dramatic as the one he scored in the third period to beat Brookings 4-3 March 4.

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“I don’t know if there’s a whole lot of luck in it, but sometimes I’ll score the first goal of the game and we’ll get a shutout. It’s a credit to our goalies and defense,” Miller said. “I take a little more pride in the one like last weekend with thirty six seconds left, that seems a little more clutch to me than scoring the first goal of the game.”

Miller is originally from Minto — not Minot — N.D. and he played hockey for Team Great Plains in his junior and senior years of high school. Last year, Miller heard from the Bruins so he called his friend and former Bruin Johnny Simonson, who has 15 points in 35 games a the University of North Dakota this season, to see what it was like to play hockey in Austin.

“We don’t get a whole lot of recognition [in North Dakota] as far as high school hockey goes. Johnny told me that Austin was one of the most developmental places for him,” Miller said. “Last year we did great and this year we’ve got a little different look with different coaches, but it’s still the same culture. We’re expected to repeat and we want to try and win the Central Cup and get back to the finals.”

While Miller’s goal scoring has been big for Austin, head coach Kyle Grabowski said his leadership has been just as valuable. With a new coaching staff and big turnover in the roster this season, the Bruins have had to lean heavily on their players with NAHL experience.

“We basically had to rebuild an entire team and your older guys are more important,” Grabowski said. “They’re driving the bus. These other guys coming out of high school and midget hockey, let’s face it, they don’t know what’s going on. You need those older guys to set the example and I think Jade’s been a great example of that. I don’t think we would be where we are now without him.”

Ausitn’s Jade Miller cuts across the blue line into the Coulee Region zone. Herald File Photo

Ausitn’s Jade Miller cuts across the blue line into the Coulee Region zone. Herald File Photo

Austin is now entering the stretch run of its season as it has 10 games remaining. With the top four teams in the division advancing into the playoffs, the Bruins are currently in third place in the Central Division with 52 points. Bismarck and Minot are tied for first with 63 points, Aberdeen is in fourth with 47 points and the Minnesota Magicians and Brookings are fighting to get in the playoffs at 44 points each.

The Bruins aren’t stressing about where they finish in the Central, as long as its in the top four and they get to play in the playoffs. Miller said that’s when a team can really mark it’s mark.

“The biggest thing is you just want these guys to get some playoff experience,” Miller said. “The atmosphere is so much different and the plays you make are so much bigger. Once you get in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter if you’re the one seed or the four seed, anything can happen. You put it all on the line and you let the chips fall. We’re right in the middle of a dog fight for it, and it’ll be fun. It makes the end of the season exciting.”

Austin (24-22-4 overall) will host Bismarck (31-16-1 overall) 7:05 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Riverside Arena.