Barnesville residents Ed and Anita Miller are very proud great-grandparents today, not that they weren't anyway.
However, after great-grandson J.T. Miller, the New York Rangers' top pick (15th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, helped lead the Team USA to the gold medal Saturday during the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships in Ufa, Russia, they are beaming brighter than ever in Shamrock Land.
The 19-year-old Miller, who is the son of Dennis and Jen Miller, of East Palestine, and the grandson of Les and Barb Miller, of the Youngstown area, served as the 20-and-under American's alternate captain, and he showed why by accounting for nine points (2 goals, 7 assists) in the squad's drive to the title.
J.T. MILLER (10) celebrates with Team USA teammates after it won the World Junior Hockey Championships Saturday in Ufa, Russia. Miller’s great-grandparents reside in Barnesville.
He was one of three returnees from 2012 when Team USA finished a disappointing seventh, something that apparently didn't sit well with this year's team. He recorded two goals and two assists in six games.
"After what happened last year, I couldn't be any more proud of these guys," Miller said on the Rangers' website. "They're going to have to rip this thing (the championship trophy) out of my arms to get it away from me!"
His nine points, in the 7-game tournament, tied teammates John Gaudreau (7-2) and Jacob Trouba (4-5) for the team lead. The trio also tied for fifth among all tournament scorers.
Miller's grandfather, Les, telephoned The Times Leader early Saturday afternoon to relay information on his grandson.
"We're really proud of all of his accomplishments," the elder Miller offered.
During Saturday's championship game in which Team USA rallied from a 1-0 deficit to defeat defending champion Sweden, 3-1, Miller helped seal the deal when he assisted on Vince Trochek's empty-netter with 17 seconds left to play.
Miller, who according to the web site, played a dynamic two-way game, took the puck away from a Swedish skater in his own end and calmly fed a streaking Trochek for the goal which sparked a huge celebration in front of the Team USA bench.
With Team USA clinging to a precarious 2-1 margin and time winding down, the Swedes put forth a gallant effort only to be turned away again and again by American goaltender John Gibson, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player following his 26-save performance.
This is the third time that Team USA has claimed the championship. They also did it in 2004 and 2010.
Upon his return from Russia, Miller will re-join his AHL teammates on the Connecticut Whale. He has scored 14 points (5g-9a) in 26 games this season before being re-assigned to Team USA.
Should the NHL and the NHLPA somehow find a way to begin its disastrous 2012-13 season that has been delayed by a salary dispute, look for Miller to be a big part of the Rangers plans for the future.
Can You Say Over-rated?
I'm one of the biggest Ohio State supporters around, but I've told my friends (all 3 of them) all basketball season that OSU is over-rated.
That was no more evident than Saturday afternoon when No. 11 Illinois took the No. 8 Buckeyes apart in Champagne-Urbana by a 74-55 margin.
I couldn't believe my eyes when OSU was ranked among the Top 5 coming into the season. Sure, they advanced to the Final Four last season, but they also lost NBA first-round pick Jared Sullinger and William Buford, one of the school's all-time male scorers.
I'm not saying that head coach Thad Matta won't get this season turned around, but the Big Ten is brutal this season. There are 5 or 6 teams ranked in the Top 25!
So far, the Buckeyes have faced three quality squads in Duke, Kansas and the Fighting Illini. There is one similar stat - a loss in all three games.
Let's go Bucks!
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org