CEDAR RAPIDS — Jack Millar is in his first full season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, but he’s been wearing a green and black hockey sweater for a lot longer than that.
It’ll be five years next season before the defenseman finally dons something without a horse on the front. He has committed to Colorado College.
The promising 18-year-old defenseman came to the United States Hockey League after spending time with the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders in Superior, Colo. Tony Sdao owns all things RoughRiders, starting various youth hockey, basketball and even golf programs under the trademarked logo.
Millar actually is the second Cedar Rapids RoughRider who was a former Rocky Mountain RoughRider. Goalie Zach Larocque was here parts of two seasons and is a sophomore at the Air Force Academy.
Cedar Rapids hosts Team USA’s 17-U team Friday and Saturday nights.
“He is a very smart player,” Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson said of Millar. “He has good poise and sees the ice well. When you put those things together, you’ve got a chance to be a very good defenseman.”
Which Millar appears to be evolving into, as he has gone from a sixth or seventh guy to last week’s USHL Defenseman of the Week after scoring a goal and adding two assists in a pair of games against Madison. He went his first 21 games this season without a point, picked up an assist in a Dec. 7 game against Green Bay and went another 17 games without another point.
In his last 10 games, Millar has two goals and seven assists, seeing his ice time increase.
“A defensive defenseman,” he said, when asked what he brings his team. “That’s what I’ve tried to focus on, defense. I’ve proven in previous years I can provide offense.”
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Millar’s size is intriguing at 6-foot-5 and 211 pounds. His improvement from the first day of the season to now has been very noticeable.
“There is no doubt he is one of the most improved guys on our team,” Carlson said. “I think his attitude has been great since day one. He has worked hard every day. Whether he has gotten seven or eight shifts or 22 shifts, he has performed consistently and continued to earn more ice time and gotten to the point where he is now.”
Carlson does not give out individual player plaudits easily, so you know he is excited about Millar’s progress and having another season to develop him before college.
“He just continued to work hard every day. I give him full credit,” Carlson said. “It’s a great life lesson, more than anything, for everybody. Just keep chipping away at things and earn things. That’s what he has done.”
— The RoughRiders enter the weekend likely out of the chase for the USHL’s Eastern Conference championship but with a legit shot at finishing in second place. Or if everything goes wrong, as low as sixth. Cedar Rapids has a 28-18-2-2 record and 60 points. That is 14 behind conference leader Muskegon and two in back of second-place Chicago. Both the RoughRiders and Steel have 10 regular-season games remaining. Youngstown is one point back of Cedar Rapids, with Team USA six back, though it has three games in hand. Dubuque is in sixth place, the final available playoff spot in the East, with 53 standings points.
— Second-year forward Marek Valach officially is done for the season and has returned home to Slovakia, Carlson said. Valach was in line for a huge season after an impressive showing late summer/early fall at Boston Bruins rookie camp but suffered a concussion early in the USHL season, his fourth, and never fully recovered. Valach played in 10 games this season, picking up five assists. He had 20 goals and 41 points in 51 games last season.
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