Focus of Attention
Denver's Adam Murray Growing Into Starting Role, Solid in Boston Split
by Scott McLaughlin/
BOSTON Adam Murray couldn't have asked for a bigger challenge in his first weekend as the clear-cut No. 1 goalie for Denver. The junior, who took over the starting job when Sam Brittain underwent knee surgery in June, got to face Boston College and Boston University on back-to-back nights on the road.
Murray quickly alleviated the concerns of many Pioneer fans — who had reason to question him given his career .887 save percentage and 3.60 goals-against average — by stopping 21 of the 23 shots he faced Friday night in a 4-2 win over BC. Although 21 saves doesn't exactly jump off the score sheet, it was an impressive effort for Murray. He appeared to be in good position on just about every shot, found the puck through traffic and didn't give up many rebounds.
"I thought Adam Murray — for his first big start against the No. 1 team in the country in a very tough environment — I thought he did pretty good in goal for us," said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. "As far as just his preparation from last June, when Sam had his surgery, Adam has not only prepared physically, but really mentally, for this opportunity that he's wanted all along. He certainly did a nice job tonight for us, made some big saves. It's a good first step for him."
The second step wasn't quite as good, as Murray gave up four goals on 37 shots in a 4-3 loss to BU on Saturday. The Terriers' second goal looked particularly bad on Murray. He played the puck behind his net and attempted to shoot it around the boards, but whiffed and turned it over to Corey Trivino, who beat him back to the net for an easy goal. The other three goals, however, are hard to blame on Murray.
Two came on breakaways created by defensive breakdowns and turnovers, and another came on a shot that got knocked down in front and backhanded by him before he could reset himself. Gwozdecky said that while there were certainly some challenges for Murray on Saturday, there were still positives to take away, particularly him making some big saves in the third period as Denver attempted to overcome a four-goal deficit.
"One of the things that Adam — and I think every athlete — tries to aspire to is that consistency," Gwozdecky said. "Last night he was bang on, he was sharp. Tonight he got rattled a little bit, especially after that second goal. He fanned on it, they stripped it and put it in an open net. But he settled down, and I think that was crucial. Certainly I was glad to see that Adam settled down and got refocused in the latter part of the second period and certainly in the third."
Denver assistant coach David Lassonde, who is new to the Pioneer coaching staff after spending the last 14 seasons serving under Dick Umile at UNH, has worked closely with Murray since arriving in Denver on September 1. Lassonde had heard about Murray's struggles with consistency in the past, but he made it clear right off the bat that they were going to move past that.
"My point to Adam," Lassonde said, "was, 'I don't care what you've done in the past. I wasn't here in the past. It makes no difference to me what you did. I'm more concerned about what you're gonna do in the future.'"
Lassonde also gave Murray a list of half a dozen "goalie commandments" that he wants Murray to follow during every practice and game. He said the commandments are designed to keep Murray focused on what's most important when he's on the ice and prevent his mind from wandering at all.
"We're doing a really good job with just maintaining puck tracking and not getting into any bad habits," Murray said of his work with Lassonde. "Just the mental part of it. I know physically, I'm capable of playing a good game. But mentally, if I can't continuously play a consistent game, then we're not going to have a successful season. So just being prepared mentally and that next-shot focus is what we've been working on every day in practice."
Lassonde said he has been happy with Murray's mindset — and obedience of the commandments — every day in practice, and that all things considered, he's happy with Murray's first weekend of regular-season action as well.
"I think when Adam looks back at the weekend, I'm sure there's a big part of him that's disappointed that we didn't win the game [Saturday night]," Lassonde said. "But one of the things I tried to impress upon him was that we would not have been in the position to do what we did in the third period had he not made some big saves for us and shut them down. That gave us an opportunity in the end to put ourselves in a position to potentially tie it up.
"I think we were pleased with his game over the course of the weekend. We've got to work with him on a few things handling the puck out of the net, and he's fully aware of that, but he made some big saves for us over the course of the weekend."