ST. PAUL, Minn. – Ryan Miller has been working hard all season for the chance to represent the United States in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next month.
That effort has paid off as USA Hockey announced Wednesday afternoon after the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic that the Buffalo Sabres goaltender had made the men’s hockey team roster.
Miller, who backstopped the Americans to a silver-medal performance at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, is 10-17-1 this season with a .927 save percentage and a 2.69 goals against average. He stopped a career-high 49 shots in his last game, a 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
“I worked myself into a good position, but you don’t know what the ultimate selection’s going to be. They actually played it really close to their chest,” he said after the Sabres' practice at Xcel Energy Center. “No one really contacted us or put out any indication of what they were thinking. They wanted it to be a competition to keep the guys focused and I think they did that.”
Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings were the other goaltenders selected to the team. The questions will now turn to which netminder general manager David Poile and head coach Dan Bylsma will start.
“There’s still a lot of hockey left here to solidify what they’re going to do with the goaltending. The job doesn’t change for me,” Miller said.
In Vancouver in 2010, Miller was named the Most Valuable Player by the media and the goaltender of the tournament by the Tournament Directorate.Those games, however, were played on a standard NHL-sized ice rink. In Sochi, the teams will skate on a larger sheet of ice so that’s one thing Miler will have to work at adjusting to.
He said he’ll probably start preparing by watching film from recent international tournaments played on the Olympic-sized ice. However, he might not have a whole lot of time to actually skate on the bigger surface.
“It’s going to be quite the adjustment to go over there and have maybe one or two practices maybe if that and have to execute,” he said. “I’ll have to mentally prepare and do the work in your mind first. I’ll try and squeeze some time in if I can get on the Olympic sheet [in Buffalo]. Maybe I’ll get the keys to the building, sneak in, see what I can do.”
Miller, 33, said he’s looking forward to going to Russia for the first time and experiencing some new things.
“It’s a new part of the world I’ve never seen before. I’m interested to see the difference in the culture. I know it’s going to be a little more of a bubble where maybe you don’t see all of the true Southern Russian culture,” he said. “But it’s fun to be around the people from different countries representing their sports and the village was great last time. I got to meet a lot of American athletes and just even spending time with guys on the team.”
He also hopes to see friends who play on other teams and for other countries, like former teammate Thomas Vanek, who’s expected to represent Team Austria in the Games.
A few Western New York natives also made the American roster. The Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, who grew up in South Buffalo, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, an Amherst native, will join Miller in wearing the stars and stripes.
Other players on the team from the state of New York include Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown, who’s from Ithaca, New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who hails from Rochester, and Howard, who’s from Syracuse. The full roster can be found here.
The men’s ice hockey tournament begins for Team USA on Feb. 13.
“It looks like the team they picked is going to be a fast team, built for that open ice,” Miller said.