Matt Murray comes up big for UMass in Hockey East quarterfinals

Minutemen netminder stops 45 shots in win

Dylan+Nguyen%2F+Daily+Collegian

Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

For all the achievements Matt Murray has earned over his five-year career, he hasn’t played in many playoff games for the Massachusetts hockey team.

This season, though, he will be in net for every postseason contest, and he proved he can handle that pressure in Saturday’s Hockey East quarterfinal matchup between UMass (20-12-2, 14-8-2 HEA) and Providence. Murray made 45 saves and played a key role in the Minutemen’s 4-2 win over the Friars (22-14-2, 12-11-1 HEA).

“I’m not going to feel bad that our goalie stole a game,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “Not so sure we deserved to beat the Providence team that came in here, they played a great game, but Matt Murray was the star.”

The Friars outshot UMass by a wide margin on Saturday and generated a litany of quality scoring chances, but Murray came up with save after save. He did not allow any goals on odd man rushes and took away scoring angles every time Providence got in tight on him. The graduate student was dialed in from the opening whistle and didn’t lose focus until the final horn sounded.

“I thought Matt Murray was the difference, you have to tip your hat to him,” Friars coach Nate Leaman said after the game. “He was superman tonight, even to the last point, we were getting great chances, great looks, but he was clearly the difference in the game.”

Murray holds the all-time program record for most career shutouts at 14 and has some of the best stats in every major category for goaltenders at UMass. Despite that, splitting time with Filip Lindberg for three seasons meant he didn’t get a chance to shine in the postseason. In the Minutemen’s 2018-19 Frozen Four run, Lindberg took over in net for every playoff game. The same was true for UMass’ 2020-21 national championship win, although Murray was thrust into the starting role in the national semifinal game due to COVID-19 protocols. He guided the Minutemen to a win in that game, but Carvel went back to Lindberg in the title game.

With Lindberg out of the picture, this season will look much different for Murray.

The graduate student returned to UMass with the expectation that he would start in every game, and with one exception that remains true. His experience in net is valuable for the Minutemen, and he is prepared to be the anchor in goal that his teammates can rely on in close games.

“I was given this opportunity when I came back,” Murray said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to come back to a place you love and to be a contributing member of the team every night, and that’s just what I’m trying to do every night, just do my part for the team.”

Hockey East is full of quality goaltenders including Northeastern’s Devon Levi, and a high level of play is necessary in elimination games where the margin for error is slim. With the win tonight, the Minutemen will move on to the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals against UMass Lowell. Captain Bobby Trivigno and the rest of Murray’s teammates feel confident in the player they have between the pipes heading into that matchup.

“To go deep in the playoffs your goalie has to get hot, and from tonight, he’s hot,” Trivigno said of Murray’s performance. “The least I could do is thank him for bailing us out and giving his all on the ice. He did that tonight and there’s no doubt he’ll continue to do that the rest of the playoffs.”

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.