Mi­lano’s flurry of goals gets him no­ticed

The Columbus Dispatch - - Sports - By Ge­orge Richards

Fall in Colum­bus means Ohio State foot­ball dom­i­nates the sports land­scape.

Yet in the span of a week, Blue Jack­ets rookie for­ward Sonny Mi­lano pushed his way into the spot­light.

“Yeah, he’s fun to watch,” coach John Tor­torella said.

In his first three games of a young hockey sea­son, the 21-year-old from Long Is­land has scored in each game and lifted the Jack­ets to a 2-1 over­time win Tues­day by scor­ing both goals against the host Carolina Hur­ri­canes.

When the Jack­ets re­turn home Fri­day night to face the New York Rangers, ex­pect to see quite a few more No. 22 jer­seys in the crowd than there were for last week’s sea­son opener, when Mi­lano snared his first NHL goal — and the first Colum­bus goal of the new sea­son.

“This has been a lot of fun. Ob­vi­ously, my dream grow­ing up has been to play in the NHL,” Mi­lano said af­ter Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice at Na­tion­wide Arena.

“Get­ting a cou­ple of goals is a great feel­ing. The first one was amaz­ing. Now I just have to treat it like a busi­ness. I just have to keep play­ing my game, not get too high or too low.”

What a week it has been for Mi­lano.

Af­ter spend­ing the past two sea­sons in Cleve­land with a few brief stints with the Jack­ets, Mi­lano was a player who needed a strong train­ing camp to so­lid­ify a spot on the open­ing night ros­ter. He came strong. Mi­lano was per­haps Colum­bus’ best player in camp and took ad­van­tage of Josh An­der­son‘s hold­out, which lasted up un­til last week.

By open­ing night, Colum­bus fans were ready to see what Mi­lano could do once the big lights came on. In the rous­ing 5-0 win over his home­town Is­lan­ders on Fri­day, Mi­lano notched his first NHL goal just over a minute into the sea­son.

The fol­low­ing night, he scored Colum­bus’ lone goal in a lack­lus­ter 5-1 loss in Chicago.

By scor­ing twice Tues­day, Mi­lano has scored all of his team’s goals in their past two games.

He said his mom has cried af­ter each goal he has scored this week.

“They watch on TV and they are so ex­cited,” said Mi­lano, a first-round pick of the Jack­ets in 2014 who played in seven games with the Jack­ets the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons.

“My dad is a huge Is­lan­ders fan, so scor­ing against them to start the sea­son was pretty cool.”

While it ap­pears all Mi­lano does is score, his all-around game is what helped him make this team. Tor­torella has praised Mi­lano’s work on both ends of the ice and de­ter­mined play in the cor­ners. Mi­lano’s fo­cus off the ice has also been no­ticed.

“The book on him was he is too risky, doesn’t un­der­stand cov­er­ages de­fen­sively,” Tor­torella said. “(Now) he is so en­gaged with ques­tions and is un­der­stand­ing how he needs to play away from the puck. That’s what is go­ing to keep him on the ice.

“I’ve been so im­pressed with him, right from Day 1 of camp in him un­der­stand­ing and get­ting bet­ter at that.”

[GERRY BROOME/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS]

Sonny Mi­lano, cen­ter rear, is con­grat­u­lated af­ter scor­ing against the Hur­ri­canes in the third pe­riod Tues­day. Mi­lano also scored the game-win­ner in over­time.

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