Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wranglers' Miller scores four points in all-star game

By Anthony Fenech

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.

ONTARIO, Calif. — Adam Miller was here.

He stood on the blue line at Citizens Business Bank Arena, his head resting on his gloves as the butt-end of a hockey stick propped up his 6-foot, 179-pound frame.

He wasn’t supposed to be here, and just last week, he wasn’t going to be.

After a couple of player introductions, the spotlight crept closer to Miller.

“From the Las Vegas Wranglers,” Ontario Reign public address announcer Jeff Pope said. “Adam Mill-ler!”

Glowing in the spotlight, he cracked a smile and nodded as he prepared to play in the 2010 ECHL All-Star Game.

So what if he was a late addition to the team, replacing an Ontario Reign player who is playing in the American Hockey League?

And so what if Tuesday night’s winner of the fastest-skater competition wasn’t even featured in the official all-star game program?

He was here.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Miller said.

Wednesday night, he was on the ice, playing with the best the ECHL has to offer. In turn, Miller showed the league what he has to offer.

“Just to play with all those guys, to get to know them and compete with them is something I’ll never forget,” he said.

The Wranglers center scored two goals and recorded two assists as the American Conference defeated the National Conference in a shoot-out, 10-9, at the 18th Annual ECHL All-Star Game in Ontario.

“Unfortunately, we lost. But this was all for the fans,” Miller said. “But when the game was close in the end, the intensity went up and both teams wanted to win this one.”

Elmira Jackals forward Justin Donati beat Idaho Steelheads goalie Ronald Bachman in the fourth round of the shoot-out, giving the American Conference the victory.

The win marks the second straight by the American Conference and two out of the last three, a string that began by facing off against former Wranglers head coach Glen Gulutzan in 2007.

“It was a fun game,” Ontario Reign captain David Walker said. “We all came out here to have fun, put on a show for the fans and represent our team, our organization and the city of Ontario.”

It was a record-setting game. The overtime and shoot-out contest was the league’s first in an all-star game, and the 19 goals scored ranked the most ever.

Miller’s four points were one shy of former Wrangler Peter Ferraro, who totaled five two years ago in Stockton.

“I think Adam Miller is a top player in our league,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “This is a testament to his hard work.”

Miller’s four-point game comes just a night after winning the fastest skater competition.

“The one thing about all-star games, there’s a lot of hockey brass there. I’m happy for him,” Mougenel said.

Trophy time: Idaho Steelheads forward Evan Barlow took home the Reebok Most Valuable Player Award. Barlow scored two goals and added two assists for the National squad.

Clutch kid: After spending the first two periods on the bench, 20-year-old Cincinnati Cyclones goalie Jeremy Smith came on for the third to lead the American Conference to the victory.

Smith stopped three of four shots in the shoot-out for the victory.

“This is part of my job — coming in for a pinch and giving the team a boost, and I’m glad we won,” Smith said.

Sweet save: In a game of goals, Bakersfield Condors goaltender Timo Pielmeier made sure the goalies got some love.

With a few minutes remaining in the second period, Pielmeier stole from Donati an all-star goal that could be best summed up by Donati’s jaw-dropping stare afterward.

As play moved into the National zone, a deflection put the puck on Donati’s stick right at the doorstep of the goal line. But when he went to flick the puck into the net, Pielmeier made a backhanded glove save that left the crowd buzzing for minutes.

Up next: ECHL play resumes on Friday with a slate of games that includes the Wranglers traveling to Idaho to take on the Steelheads.

Final word: “I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Miller said of the two-day experience.

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