Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Matt Murray’s stellar night helps UMass hockey over Merrimack

Sophomore goaltender makes 26 saves in win
(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

It’s been a heck of a start for Matt Murray.

After a freshman campaign where he was shaky at times, Murray’s been nothing short of stellar for the Massachusetts hockey team this season, and turned in another sparkling performance in a 5-1 win over Merrimack on Friday.

Having picked up the biggest win of his life over then-No. 1 Ohio State last Friday, Murray was excellent again in No. 16 UMass’ Hockey East opener, making 26 saves to move his own record to 3-0-0 on the year.

“We were lucky that Matt Murray… I think that was the best game he’s played here at UMass,” coach Greg Carvel said. “I thought he was outstanding tonight. He made a lot of big saves look real easy.”

Murray made several key saves in one of his finest performances in a maroon-and-white sweater, holding Merrimack (2-4-0, 1-1-0 HEA) without a goal until midway through the third period. Murray was sharp all evening, smothering rebounds and moving from post to post with ease, looking as confident as he ever has.

“I definitely think that with success comes confidence, and I’ve just been working hard in practice and it’s been paying off,” Murray said. “I thought I was good, I thought I did my part, and that’s all you can ask for.”

The first period was Murray’s busiest — the sophomore netminder made 13 saves — but he looked cool and collected in the process, a big jump from the player UMass saw last season. He made five more saves in the second period, and the Warriors needed more than 45 minutes of ice time to finally put one past him

Even when his shutout bid ended, Murray was impressive — on the only Merrimack goal, he still made the initial save on a breakaway after a bad turnover before Matt McArdle buried the rebound — and couldn’t be blamed the lone blemish on the stat sheet.

“Tonight, he was outstanding,” Carvel said. “He moved side-to-side, made big saves, he was big. It’s unfortunate he didn’t get the shutout because he did make the first save on the breakaway. He was great tonight.”

Murray’s shared time in the cage with freshman Filip Lindberg, the latter of which may likely get the start in the return game on Saturday night, as Carvel has split his goalies in each series thus far. It’s too early to predict the permanent starter, but Murray’s built himself a significantly stronger case than he did last season, something Carvel credits to a combination of Murray’s hard work and improvement, and a greater focus on the netminders by the coaching staff.

“We’ve challenged him and we’ve asked him and Jared [DeMichiel] has done a really good job of training [the goaltenders], like challenging them to be better and work harder in practice and be more focused,” Carvel said. “I give Murray a lot of credit because he’s taken it, he’s taken on the challenge and it’s gotten to a point where instead of us going to the goalies and saying ‘hey, let’s do this,’ the goalies are coming to us. I think they’re gaining confidence.

“I admitted I think the middle of last year at Christmastime that we weren’t giving our goalies the focus that we needed. We started to at the end of last year and you saw Murray’s game come around.”

His .946 save percentage and 1.67 goals against average are a far cry from the .911 and 2.70 he put up last season, and while there’s months of hockey left to be played, it’s been a very hot start for the sophomore, and Friday was another point in his favor for the starting job.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.

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