STORRS, Conn. — It was the D.J. Miller show in the consolation matchup of the Cingular/UConn Classic.
The junior forward netted two first-period goals and sent a bid for a natural hat trick off the near post, leading Connecticut (4-9-3, 3-5-2 MAAC) past Bentley (2-16-1, 2-11-1 MAAC) by a 3-1 score.
Miller came into the game with a 5-2-7 scoring line for the season, but asserted himself as the most dangerous threat on the ice for Connecticut, notching an even strength goal as well as a power play score.
“D.J. has a good shot, a hard shot, and it’s a very good tool. He just needs to use it,” said Connecticut coach Bruce Marshall. “We didn’t play as well as I would have liked in the first period last game. We had an average first period last night and I told D.J., as well as the team, that we needed to have a better first today.”
Needless to say, Miller came through in the first frame, and his play proved to be enough for Connecticut to hang on for the win.
“Coach yelled at me a little bit after yesterday, letting me know that I needed to be a little more selfish and not be afraid to shoot the puck,” said Miller. “I was lucky enough that a couple fell in and we played defensive hockey to get the win.”
Although Connecticut seemed to establish itself in the first, play fell off in a second period mired in penalties. The teams combined for 32 penalty minutes, including misconducts to Matt Grew and Seth Vinocur.
Despite the slow, chippy play, Bentley was able to break onto the scoreboard in the second frame. Marcus Willy was credited with a goal that appeared to deflect off of a Connecticut skate past netminder Artie Imbriano in the midst of a pile of players out front.
Bentley buzzed in most of the third period, but couldn’t put together many quality scoring chances. Again, Connecticut fell victim to undisciplined play, giving Bentley several power-play opportunities as the clock wound down.
“We’ve got to avoid falling into that kind of stuff,” said Marshall. “We got worn down by all of their extracurricular play.”
Yet, Imbriano held his ground and the Connecticut defense was able to clear away any loose pucks in front of the net. The sophomore saved 25 shots for the victory.
Kevin Williams stopped 33 in the losing effort for Bentley.
Connecticut and Bentley are no strangers to each other, and it was evident in Sunday’s game.
“It’s tough to have to play a team like that in a tournament,” said Marshall. “You know the adage it’s hard to win three games against any team. Well, playing them a fourth time without any points doesn’t make things any easier.”
Miller said, “We are definitely familiar with their team. We really wanted to go out there tonight and send a message of things to come.”
Connecticut achieved some of that goal with a win, but Bentley proved that any points in league play will be tough to come by.
After playing two MAAC teams, Connecticut was a gracious host. “We are happy to host a tournament like this,” said Marshall. “We brought three good teams to play in front of our fans this weekend.”