Ice Network

Miner in front following messy start to men's event

Israelis Bychenko, Samohin sit 2-3; Uno struggles with uptempo short
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Ross Miner was smooth and confident in his "New York State of Mind" short, which included a clean triple flip, a triple axel and a triple lutz-double toe. The former U.S. silver medalist, who finished second at this event last year and third in 2012, took home 74.66 points to pace the field. -Jay Adeff

In an evening crammed with sloppy performances, Ross Miner's smooth effort to Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" took top honors at the 2015 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, giving the Boston skater a two-point lead heading into Friday's free skate.

Miner was stylish and speedy, hitting a triple flip and under-rotated triple axel before reducing a planned triple lutz-triple toe loop combination to a triple-double. His three spins all rated Level 4, and his step sequence gained Level 3. The program, choreographed by Jamie Isley, was polished and entertaining, earning 74.66 points.

"I skated a performance, which is something I'm trying to do more of," Miner said. "I think it was pretty good. It was fun to skate in Salt Lake; it always is."

Miner was disappointed to miss his triple-triple combination, a move he has hit well in practices here.

"I didn't quite trust the take-off on the lutz, and I got a little bit forward, so it's going to be difficult to get a triple toe done after that," he said. "You have to go out and do it when it counts. That's life, and it's motivation for tomorrow."

There's a touch of irony that the Vermont-born skater, who has trained at Skating Club of Boston for many years, chose the Billy Joel anthem.

"I have a newfound appreciation for New York," Miner said. "I went there for a costume fitting with my girlfriend and we had a great time. I don't think I'll ever be a Yankees fan, though."

Israeli skaters Alexei Bychenko and Daniel Samohin hit quad toes, but other mistakes put them second and third, respectively.

Bychenko, fourth at the 2015 European Championships, opened with a superb triple axel followed by a solid quad, and also hit a strong triple flip-triple toe. Weak spins, combined with low program component scores (PCS), cost him the lead. He takes 72.60 points into the free skate.

"I popped my quad combination in warm-up, so it was a big (relief) to get the jumps done," Bychenko said. "My goal was to score over 80 (points), and I got 72. That score is a little low. I messed up my sit-change spin, probably because I have a problem with my skates that we didn't have time to change. Also, probably, I was nervous."

Samohin, who won the silver medal at the Junior Grand Prix in Colorado Springs earlier this month, opened with a spectacular quad toe-triple toe that earned 16.6 points. He stepped out of his second quad, a salchow, and lost more ground when he fell on his triple axel. The 18-year-old was also awarded far lower program component scores than Miner.

"The axel was fine in the air; I over-rotated it a little and flew into the boards," Samohin said. "It was one of those moments, you do something good (the quad toe combination), and then you feel like, 'The rest of this program has got to be good.'"

Timothy Dolensky's short, set to Josh Groban's version of "Cinema Paradiso," was sterling save for one big mistake: he popped his triple axel into a single, earning no points for the element. Otherwise, the routine was the most elegant of the night, featuring superb spins. Dolensky earned 69.18 points.

"I felt really good going in (to the axel), I just tensed up right before," Dolensky said. "I knew I could do everything else after that, so it was easy at that point."

It was a night Richard Dornbush, 10th in the U.S. last season, would probably like to forget. The skater stepped out of both his quad toe and triple axel before popping an intended triple lutz-triple toe into a double-double. He sits sixth with 65.33 points.

"I'm happy I was on my feet with the quad," Dornbush said. "The axel was a slip-up, not a huge mistake. I'm mostly just bothered that I had minuses on every single jumping pass. That's something that just can't happen. And to have an entire element (the combination) flat-lined is sort of a disaster in a short program. I'm looking on working on it and building toward my Grand Prix." 

The biggest shock of the night was Shoma Uno's ninth-place finish. Japan's world junior champion, impressive in practices here, turned an opening quad toe into a sloppy triple, then doubled an intended triple axel. The earlier triple toe invalidated his triple -triple toe combination, and he earned no points for the element. He has 52.45 points.

"I missed a lot," Uno said through an interpreter. "I was not physically injured, but I did not believe in myself. I was too nervous. I will forget about the result tonight and believe in myself more for the long program tomorrow."