Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Murray, Lindberg in healthy competition early on for UMass

Both goalies ready for season to start opposite RPI

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Murray, Lindberg in healthy competition early on for UMass

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts hockey team has quite the battle brewing in net.

Sophomore goalie Matt Murray and freshman netminder Fille Lindberg are each capable, quality options to man the Minutemen cage, yet only one can assume the role of starting goaltender.

Murray beat out Ryan Wischow for the reigns in net last season and put together a 9-12-2 record for a respectable first year. Murray’s four shutouts set a single-season program record as a freshman.

Lindberg, who arrives in Amherst from Espoo, Finland, played 49 games for the TUTO Hockey U20 team in the Jr. A SM-liiga and posted a 2.69 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. This past summer, Lindberg starred for the Finnish World Junior Summer Showcase U20 team.

UMass officially kicks off its season this weekend with a home-and-home against Rensselaer. During the early portion of this season, both Murray and Lindberg have readied themselves for the chance to prove they can be the Minutemen’s No. 1 puck-stopper.

“I thought Murray’s had a pretty strong training camp and has come back and been a sophomore, been a veteran like he should be,” assistant coach and primary goalie coach Jared DeMichiel, said. “[Lindberg], he’s played at a super high level against some World Junior-caliber kids.”

DeMichiel works extensively with the goalies during each practice. During this first month, he has seen Murray’s game progress particularly in controlling rebounds and puck management.

“Coach Barr actually brought a really good drill to the table called ‘Sloppy Joe’ and it’s about [trying to prevent] giving out sloppy joe rebounds. That’s one thing of the things Murray has worked on. The puck has been sticking to him a lot more this year.”

Murray kept things brief when describing aspects he worked on over the summer.

“Just simplifying a lot of things,” Murray. “A lot of hand work and just skating.”

Playing the puck outside of the crease was something Murray had a hard time figuring out last season but DeMichiel said he’s already looked much more composed in his stickhandling skills.

Lindberg played the third period of the Minutemen’s 6-1 exhibition victory over RMC and allowed a goal. Coming over from Finland where the game is a bit different, DeMichiel has liked how his European netminder has adjusted so far.

“He’s been awesome, he’s like a sponge,” DeMichiel said. “He wants to watch video, he wants to go in early, he wants to stay late. I’ve been really impressed in his skating sessions [too]. He has elite feet, his feet are super quick.

“The adjustment to our ice sheet, to playing on NHL ice sheets, I think it’s something he’s trying to get more comfortable with.”

Practice intensity has been one of the biggest differences Lindberg has noticed in his short time at UMass.

“It’s maybe like shorter but on the other hand we have like full energy all the time,” Lindberg said. “I like that actually. I feel like we develop more like that, so I like that a lot.”

It’s likely both Murray and Lindberg will each split a game of the series against the Engineers but either way, both understand the importance of starting off with solid starts in the Minutemen cage.

“I think the biggest thing is treating each game as it’s the first game of the year, as it’s the last game you’ll ever play and just keep that motivation going,” Murray said.

“The boys, obviously every single one is really excited and it’s going to be a good game so I’m looking forward to it,” Lindberg said.

As far as the battle for the starting gig, DeMichiel has no problems with letting his goalies settle it amongst themselves.

“I think in every position you should have competition,” he said. “Sometimes you do want to kind of have that one guy you can kinda put all your eggs into one basket. But I think with our team and our program, where we’re at, I think competition is huge for us and we should have that.”

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

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