ShareThis Page

Miller, Grafton carrying offensive load for Armstrong

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 1:51 a.m.
Armstrong’s Christian Miller (right) leads PIHL Class AA with 25 goals, entering Tuesday’s games.
Leader Times File
Entering Tuesday's games, Armstrong's Hunter Grafton was third in the PIHL with 37 points. He was the second-leading scorer in Class A season with 81 points and a PIHL-best 43 assists.

On a new team with a new coach in a new classification, things are the same as ever for Armstrong hockey linemates Christian Miller and Hunter Grafton.

Miller and Grafton, the No. 1 and No. 2 scorers in Class A last season with Kittanning, are on pace to be near the top of the Class AA leaderboard this season as the top scorers for the first-year Armstrong program.

Miller, a junior, entered Tuesday with a league-best 25 goals, and his 35 points is fourth in Class AA. Grafton, a senior, is third in the league with 37 points on 15 goals and 22 assists.

Those totals through 11 games put the pair on a similar pace to last season, when Miller was Class A's top scorer with 82 points and a league-high 45 goals, and Grafton was second with 81 points and a league-high 43 assists to end the regular season.

Their scoring success has helped the Riverhawks (8-3-0) to the third-best record in Class AA through Monday's games, but the big numbers have come with an added challenge for the duo.

“Every single game is a challenge,” Grafton said. “We're not going to go out and beat teams 11-1 or 12-1. We can never take a game lightly.”

“It's definitely better competition every night. It doesn't matter if it's a team that only has two or three wins,” Miller said. “We're a team that scores a lot of goals, but I don't think we've had more than eight in a game yet.”

Moving up a classification has been just one part of the task for Grafton and Miller, who have been linemates since playing freshman hockey in junior high. The two also were entrusted with the leadership role in the merger of Kittanning and Ford City's programs, with Grafton serving as captain and Miller as one of the assistant captains.

To try and help spread out the on-ice leadership and scoring, Armstrong coach Doug Anthony experimented with putting the two on separate lines. Though the move wasn't a total failure, Anthony said he quickly realized that his top guns bring out the best in each other.

“It's kind of amazing, actually. They just know where each other is on the ice at all times,” Anthony said. “They get down in the corners, and they can find each other in close quarters without even looking sometimes.”

That chemistry between the two is fueled by their complementary playing styles.

“I'm more of a pass-first guy, so he's perfect for me because he has an unbelievable scoring touch and he's great at getting open,” Grafton said.

“I definitely enjoy shooting the puck a lot — maybe too much,” Miller said with a laugh. “But he's always looking for me, and I don't even have to call for the puck.”

The third player on their line, senior Cody Toy, adds another dimension to the group by playing as what Miller called “a real power forward.” Toy has two goals and 14 assists.

“He just knows how to get the puck to Christian and me, and he has a great net presence,” Grafton said. “You need three guys on a line, and we wouldn't be where we are without him.”

Anthony also commended the former Kittanning players for their defensive work this season in the system he brought from his days coaching at Ford City, but offense is what the team needs most from them.

Much of the Riverhawks' success for the rest of the year will be tied to their ability to continue putting the puck in the net, and Anthony said when it's late in a close game, his leaders know they're the ones who will be on the ice.

“We expect a lot out of ourselves, and the team in general, this year,” Miller said. “The games we lost earlier in the year, we can only blame ourselves. We both take a lot of pride in being captains, and it falls on us to be ready to play and to lead the team.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.