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updated: 11/27/2012 7:46 PM

Libertyville's Miller extends family hockey lineage

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  • Shannon Miller

    Shannon Miller

By Ross Forman
Daily Herald Correspondent

Yet another "Miller" appears on the back of a local hockey jersey.

This one, though, also has a blonde ponytail extending from the blue helmet.

Shannon Miller, 15, a sophomore at Libertyville is in her second season skating for the co-op Lake Forest Scouts, comprised of players who attend Libertyville, Stevenson, Deerfield, Woodlands Academy and Lake Forest.

Miller and senior forward Bridget Roche are the lone Libertyville representatives.

"Many of us have been playing together for a long time, so we work really well together. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses," said Miller, a left-handed shooting forward. "I have played with many of the girls since first-grade, so it's almost like we don't go to different schools."

Lake Forest is coming off a state championship run last season, ultimately losing 1-0 in the state championship game, played at the United Center. The Scouts won state in 2011 and also finished second in 2010.

"At times, the history of the team can be stressful; you don't want to let the team down," Miller said. "I think this year's team is really strong, so it's definitely a possibility (of winning state again), if we keep working hard. In fact, it would be real cool to win it. Last year, watching New Trier (celebrate) made me think about what it would be like."

Miller has been skating since she was 4, when her dad (Bob) took her to public skating. He did the same thing with Miller's brother, Scott, when he was 2.

Shannon has been playing hockey since first-grade, and also skates for the Falcons' U19 team.

Scott, meanwhile, is a captain on the co-op Libertyville boy's team.

"I always knew I was going to be a hockey player," Miller said.

Lake Forest stands at 7-1-1 in Metro Girls play this season. The Latin School of Chicago is in second place, followed by Fenwick. Loyola and New Trier also are within striking distance.

Miller has 2 goals, 5 assists in 9 league games.

"We've been doing really well so far this season," Miller said. "We try to get goals early in the game, so we don't have to worry about the outcome. We have a strong team.

"Personally, I try to win the battles in the corner because I don't want to be on the ice when the other team scores. I always try to use my speed to my advantage."

And certainly her vast hockey lineage. Just consider:

• Her brother, Scott, is a returning varsity player.

• Her dad, Bob, was the JV head coach at Glenbrook North from 1982-83 and then the GBN varsity co-head coach from 1985-1994.

• Her uncle, Tom, played college hockey, has coached at Glenbrook North and now is the longtime hockey director for the Falcons Hockey Association in Highland Park.

"We're a hockey family," she said, laughing.

Miller tagged her dad as the biggest influence on her career. He was her coach for about five years. "We always talk hockey on the way to, and (returning) from, games."

The family also has a hockey net in their basement and outside on the driveway to practice their shooting.

Off the ice, Miller is a member of Libertyville's JV pom pom squad and, because of that, is required to take two dance classes. And they help on the ice.

"There's lots of strength, control and flexibility (through dance). That helps in hockey," she said.

Miller also volunteers on Saturday mornings at a horse farm in Wauconda. She assists with Partners For Progress, a nonprofit organization that provides unique equine therapy-based programs for individuals with disabilities.

"(The volunteering) makes me feel good, see how fortunate I am," she said. "Plus, seeing how happy the kids are is very rewarding."

The Scouts are coached this season by Liz Zorn who, as a senior at Cornell University during the 2009-2010 season, served as team captain during the Big Red's run to the national championship game. The Lake Forest coaching staff this season features assistants Laura Danforth, who also skated for Cornell, and Sarah Gilbride, a junior defenseman now skating for Lake Forest College.

Miller says the standout coaching staff is helping her improve, adding, "Our practices are never boring.

"I don't lead the team in scoring; I just try to be a smart player, not get any minuses, (given when on the ice while the other team scores), give good passes, and be there for rebounds."

Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally one of the busiest periods locally as most local boys and girls teams participated in tournaments. Miller and her Lake Forest teammates edged New Trier 1-0 to win the championship game of the Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament.

Elsewhere in holiday tournament action:

• Glenbrook North blitzed Sandburg 8-2 to claim the championship of the boys annual Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament. The Spartans advanced to the title game after stopping the host Rambler 2-1 in overtime. In the other semifinal, Sandburg defeated New Trier Green 5-4 for the second win this season over the Trevians.

• Providence Catholic needed overtime to defeat Naperville North 1-0 in the ninth annual Stevenson Thanksgiving Tournament, played in Buffalo Grove. Providence advanced to the championship game with a 4-2 win over the host Patriots. Naperville North also went overtime in its semi before beating York, 6-5.

• Evanston claimed the championship in the co-op PREP Tournament with a 7-4 win over the hosts. PREP features players from Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Elk Grove and Prospect.

And, looking ahead: Glenbrook North plays host to New Trier Green on Sunday night, Dec. 2, in a battle of the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in Illinois. Game time at the Northbrook Sports Center is 7:15 p.m. There will be a pregame ceremony honoring Larry Michaels, a member of Glenbrook North's 1985 state championship team who died suddenly in October at age 45. Bob and Tom Miller will be present for the ceremonial puck-drop, and Trevians coach Bob Melton was teammates with Michaels at GBN before moving on to a college hockey career and then into coaching. "As my teammate, Larry was more than a good hockey player and state champion; he was a great guy and friend. He will be missed." Bob Miller added: "So sorry to hear about Larry Michaels' (death). I remember him as somewhat of a quiet kid, but a strong, stocky player who was tough in the corners and stood up for his teammates. Was a total team player and was a pleasure to coach at GBN. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

The Top 25 teams in the state, ranked by Ross Forman:

1. Glenbrook North, 2. New Trier Green, 3. Sandburg, 4. Loyola Gold, 5. Fenwick, 6. St. Rita, 7. Providence Catholic, 8. Naperville Central, 9. Rockford, 10. Stevenson, 11. Naperville North, 12. Prairie Ridge, 13. AWF Renegades, 14. BG/H/W, 15. Waubonsie Valley, 16. Deerfield, 17. Highland Park, 18. Mount Carmel, 19. Crystal Lake South, 20. Maine Township, 21. New Trier Blue, 22. Lake Forest Academy, 23. Lyons Township, 24. Benet Academy, 25. Barrington

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