Carvel, UMass looking for either Murray or Lindberg to start full-time

Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg have split time in the UMass net over past two seasons

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Parker Peters

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Evan Marinofsky, Assistant Sports Editor

Greg Carvel has a problem every other hockey team in the country would kill to have.

He has Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg — two goalies who would start almost anywhere else.

Now, this isn’t like the famous sports adage of when you have two of something with only one position, you really have none. This isn’t a starting quarterback job. Hockey has many more games and many more opportunities for a goaltender. The Massachusetts hockey team is slated to play 27 this year.

But after the past two seasons of having Murray and Lindberg split time in net, Carvel wants to ride one goalie for the 2020-21 campaign.

“I think we owe that to the goalies after two years,” Carvel said on Dec. 8.

UMass has enjoyed ample success deploying the two-goalie tandem. In 2019-20, Murray’s goals against average ranked seventh in all of college hockey at 1.86. Lindberg’s GAA of 1.91 ranked eighth. In Hockey East, Lindberg’s save percentage of .927 ranked fourth while Murray ranked sixth at .919.

Back in the Minutemen’s road to the 2019 National Championship game, Carvel went with Murray as the starter for Game 1 against New Hampshire in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. After the then-sophomore allowed three straight goals in the second period, Carvel turned to Lindberg. He never gave up the net.

Carvel decided during the summer to ride one goalie for the 2020-21 season.

“I enjoyed hearing that,” Murray said of his reaction to the coaching staff’s decision to roll with one full-time goalie. “That just showed that if I play the way that he needs me to be playing at, then fine. But if I’m performing at that level and I deserve to be playing, then it’d be fair for him to justify continuing to play myself and vice versa. It works as you’ve got to work extra hard because you know he won’t hesitate to play [Lindberg] back to back as well if he deserves so as well.

“It’s a big motivator.”

The first indication that Carvel and co. were leaning towards riding with one goalie came during the two-game set with Merrimack two weekends ago when Murray started the first game and then was trotted back out for the second.

“It felt great,” Murray said of playing both games. “With the battle that [Lindberg] and I have had going on for the past few years now, it’s been pretty back and forth over these past years, so whenever I get the opportunity to play two in a row, it means a lot and it’s a big statement game for myself.”

UMass assistant coach and goalie guru Jared DeMichiel – who was between the pipes for the Rochester Institute of Technology from 2006-2010 – made the call to start Murray the following game. Carvel’s never been shy about his lack of goaltending knowledge, which is why he defers to DeMichiel on almost everything to do with the position. Because DeMichiel felt Murray played well in the first game, the senior got the start in the second.

In Game 2, Murray stopped 19 of 22 shots in the 3-2 loss. He played well, but probably not well enough to warrant holding the net for another series, this time against Vermont on Saturday.

And the back and forth battle for the net continues.

Because neither Murray or Lindberg have really passed the other, one question that’s popped up is have either have considered entering the transfer portal?

“Of course, with goalies it’s always a concern that if they’re not playing, they need ice time,” Carvel said. “The situation with these two kids is they’re both elite academic students. They’re both close to 4.0 students and they understand that they are student athletes. I think that keeps them grounded that they’re here for an education as well.”

Nevertheless, the Minutemen coaching staff wants one of the two top-tier goalies to emerge as the starter.

“I want to see one of them deserve to play every game because if they do, that means they’re playing outstanding hockey and that’ll help us win games,” Carvel said.

The starter for this weekend is unknown.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @emarinofsky.