For senior forward Tim Miller, rebound goals this season have been a major rebound from last year.
The left winger didn’t find the back of the net until the 34th game of last season, but he didn’t waste any time this fall, notching the game-winner in the season opener. He remained hot last weekend against Ohio State, scoring two gritty goals off rebounds.
“His strongest suit is around the net,” Michigan assistant coach Mel Pearson said. “He’s not going to score many goals from the top of the circle. He’s a big, strong, physical kid, and that’s how he has to play. … That’s where Timmy’s effective.”
Friday’s lamp-lighter came with just 6:22 remaining and the game tied, and the goal proved to be the difference in the contest. Sophomore forward Aaron Palushaj passed through traffic to the front of the net, where Miller dove and pushed the puck into the left side of the goal.
“Palushaj’s a play-maker,” Miller said. “So I just know if I get to the net, the puck’s going to be on my stick, or it’s going to be close to me. I just have to work hard to get to the net.”
Miller credits his linemates, Palushaj and sophomore forward Louie Caporusso, with setting him up for his goals last weekend. The three currently make up Michigan’s top line, which means Miller is seeing a lot more ice time than he did last year.
Near the end of the first period Saturday, after a scramble in front of the Buckeye goal, Miller lifted the puck over the goalie’s shoulder off a crisp backhand pass from Caporusso.
Miller and Caporusso played together last year, too, but the Michigan coaching staff added Palushaj just last week. Berenson said he hoped the move would help spark the line, and create a two-line scoring attack. Against the Buckeyes, the Wolverines received offensive production from its other top line, featuring senior Travis Turnbull and sophomores Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin.
Miller’s line accounted for four of Michigan’s six goals on Saturday, proving it has instant chemistry.
But perhaps the most impressive sign of the weekend was how Miller appeared “re-energized,” according to Pearson.
“With those two guys, Aaron and Louie, it’s hard not to be excited,” Pearson said. “They’re such good players and they’re high-energy guys, and I think that’s actually pulled (Miller) along.”
It took almost five months for him to record his first goal last year, and Miller didn’t notch a single goal at Yost Ice Arena. Named an alternate captain before last season began, the ‘A’ was taken away midway through the year.
As the pressures mounted, he visibly tightened up during games.
“You could tell he was really squeezing the sap out of his stick,” Turnbull said last year.
But through the first eight games this fall, a different, more relaxed Miller has emerged in practice and in game play. His recent on-ice success has translated to an inner confidence.
“He’s just night and day,” Caporusso said. “He’s excited to play hockey. When you’re excited and you want to play and you want to score, you’re going to play a great game. That’s what he’s been doing.”