Ames: UMass hockey’s goalie situation continues to intrigue

Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg playing well early


Caroline O’Connor/Collegian

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts hockey team has two starting goalies.

Sophomore Matt Murray won both of his starts, while freshman Filip Lindberg split his two decisions. Murray beat Rensselaer at home and (former No. 1) Ohio State on the road. Lindberg defeated RPI in New York but lost to the Buckeyes on the road.

While most teams like to ride with one netminder, UMass has done the opposite by letting its two underclassmen battle it out so far this season.

Coming into the season, I wasn’t sure who would start between the pipes. Murray had one season under his belt, and a good one at that, but an injury late last year did not give me complete confidence that coach Greg Carvel would go right back to him this season.

Adding in the arrival of Lindberg, a goalie who competed for Finland in the World Junior Summer Showcase a few months ago and arrived to campus with a fair amount of praise, I could not decide who would be the better option.

Now after watching the pair of puck-stoppers twice each, I find myself feeling the same way.

Neither guy has separated himself, in my estimation, because they’ve both been so strong. Murray looks much more confident patrolling the UMass crease this season, and I think that is helping him in all aspects of his game. Lindberg shows more of a calmness in the cage, but it seems to be working for him because he’s already made a few high-pressure saves look routine.

Their styles of play are very similar, since neither needs a lot of extra movement to find and stop pucks. They both anticipate plays well and can make the diving save when necessary, too.

On the weaknesses side, Murray’s glove hand gets exposed from time to time and Lindberg seems to not know where the puck is when making some saves. Both also could work on rebound control, but none of these problems are unusual for young college hockey goalies.

While I think both have played admirably, I was quite surprised when Lindberg was announced as the starter for the second game of the series with the Buckeyes. Murray backstopped UMass to an upset of the top-ranked team in the country in the first game and I figured he would go again the next night.

Winning a game like that doesn’t happen all the time, so I thought Murray had won the right to the net.

Instead, Lindberg was substituted in. To me, Lindberg playing in that game signals the coaching staff’s desire for him to get reps in the net rather than any sort of slight to Murray’s game. The move paid off, as Lindberg was steady in goal despite the loss.

It’s hard for me to see where Carvel goes from here with his two goalies. He could stick to what he’s been doing and continue to split, or use these past four games to evaluate and pick one to man the cage moving forward.

I would not be surprised if they share the net in this weekend’s home-and-home against Merrimack. It will get interesting in two weeks, when the Minutemen only have one game against New Hampshire.

Unless one of the two plays poorly against the Warriors or suffers an injury, whoever starts against the Wildcats would, by the looks of it, be getting the reins to the UMass net. Until then, expect a similar rotation for the Minutemen in goal.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.