After a hot start to his Rapid City Rush career, forward Kenton Miller hit a wall during the middle of the season.
That lull is officially over.
Miller has been on fire recently, scoring seven goals during a four game goal streak that started Feb. 2 while the Rush were in Fort Wayne to take on the Komets.
He was particularly hard to deal with during a recent three game series against the Utah Grizzlies, all of which were Rush wins. Miller scored three goals Wednesday, two Friday and notched a power play goal Saturday.
Rapid City coach Daniel Tetrault said confidence is the biggest difference that has contributed to Miller's resurgence.
"When he’s got the puck he’s not thinking, when he gets the puck he knows where it’s going to be and he knows where to shoot it right away," he said. "He’s going to the front of the net and he’s driving the net, and that’s the difference."
Miller has scored 18 goals and notched 17 assists for 35 points in 48 games for Rapid City this season. After his recent hot streak, he is now third on the team in points.
He said his newly found confidence is simple; it's as easy as seeing the puck go through the net a few times.
"The puck’s going in the net," he said. "When you’re shooting and it’s going in, you always want to have confidence, but that just gives you an extra boost."
Miller said playing with players like Daniel Leavens and Jack Walker on his line has also helped, saying he likes the skill and speed those two players posses.
"He’s a warrior, he’s a leader who is one of our veterans and he’s a goal scorer," Tetrault said. "He’s got a heck of a shot and he’s been shooting the puck (now)."
One of the things that hasn't changed with Miller, despite his slump, is his lower body strength which makes it difficult to knock him off the puck.
"I work pretty hard off the ice too, and it's keeping your feet moving when you’re down low too so when they hit you they can’t usually get a full piece," he said. "It’s great, and on top of it we’ve won these three games (against Utah) so we’re on a high, not too high, but we’re definitely going to build off it."
It hasn't just been Miller that made a habit of exposing Utah over the past week, or even all season. With it's 2-1 win Saturday Rapid City ended the season 8-3-0-0 against its mountain division rival.
Miller said it would be a mistake to assume the Rush dominated the Grizzlies this season, despite the record, citing a 6-5 win Friday where the Rush led 6-1 but almost let the Grizzlies come all the way back.
"We’ve had their number but all the games have been super close and could have went either way," he said. "We’ve just been able to find a way to stay up one goal or get the empty net goal to get the win."
In the 11 contests between the teams this season, five have been decided by one goal.
It also isn't just Miller that's on a hot streak. All of Rapid City's offense seems to have woken up in the dead of winter, as the team is averaging 3.8 goals per game and 26.8 shots per game during a five game stretch in the month of February.
It also averaged 3.2 goals per game in 13 January games as well as 28.8 shots per game during that time.
"We’ve been getting scoring form everyone," Miller said. "Andrew (Miller) had the game winning goal (Friday), (Gustav) Bourmman had the goal and point (Saturday), we’re getting it from everyone, that’s why we’re getting these goals.
"Knowing what we’re good at, we’re good down low and taking the pucks to the net."
Rapid City (18-28-2-0, 38 points) starts a three game series with the Wichita Thunder (25-19-4-0, 54 points) Friday on the road.