Kittanning grad Miller finds team in junior hockey ranks
Christian Miller was getting accustomed to living in Fort Wayne, Ind., and preparing for his first junior hockey season as a member of the Indiana Attack when he and his teammates were hit with a shocking surprise.
After practice a few days before the season was scheduled to start, the players were told that the team had folded.
“We were told we needed to find a new place to play,” Miller said.
This left Miller scrambling to find a new team, but in the end, he feels he ended up in a better situation.
Miller, a Kittanning graduate and former Kittanning and Armstrong hockey standout, signed with the Wooster (Ohio) Oilers of the North American Tier III Hockey league (NA3HL).
The Oilers are in their first season in the NA3HL, but have been a franchise since 2006. The NA3HL is the top tier III hockey league in the country and has an affiliation with the NAHL, the top Tier II league.
“I sat down and thought about all of my options I had with who I had talked with over the summer and who had talked to me before,” Miller said. “I tried to make the best decision possible.”
Wooster coach Val Hernandez was happy to land a player of Miller's caliber this late.
“I watched Christian a few times last year and really liked him as a player,” Hernandez said. “It's unfortunate that some programs make promises and then they can't come through on them. Fortunately, we were able to work it out to get him to Wooster.”
Miller has played eight games with Wooster. He scored the game-winning goal and had an assist in a 5-3 win Saturday against the Metro (Mich.) Jets. It was his first two points with the Oilers.
“It's a big adjustment (from high school hockey). You've got to think on the move every second,” Miller said. “The goalies are much better. You've got to be precise with your shot, but you can't think about it. You can't analyze it; you've just got to shoot it.”
Hernandez thinks Miller has the potential to be a top player on the team, but it'll take some time to get there.
“The competition is what he was looking for, and he's being pushed,” Hernandez said. “He's doing some growing right now. He's welcoming the challenge.”
Miller keeps close tabs on the River Hawks hockey team. He sent a text to Armstrong coach Doug Anthony before the team's first game last Monday to wish them luck.
Miller hopes hard work will lead to another rung up the ladder in amateur hockey.
“I'd like to move on to the NCAA, whether it be the Division I or Division III level. I think those are good goals to have,” Miller said.
“I'd like to go to the NAHL or USHL as well, but right now, I'm just happy to have the opportunity to keep playing hockey.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.