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Murray takes over the crease for the Pioneers

Adam Murray begins the 2010-11 hockey season in goal for the Pioneers. Photo: Rich Clarkson & Associates

There is not a single person in head coach George Gwozdecky’s vaunted hockey program that would ever be caught reveling in a teammate’s misfortune — especially among the team’s goaltenders.

The netminders are a tight fraternity, often relying on one another for technical advice and emotional support after tough games.

That fact aside, there is little question Sam Brittain’s tough break is opening a world of opportunity for junior goaltender Adam Murray.

Murray began last season battling Brittain — whose 19-9-5 freshman season led to a spot on the Western Collegiate Hockey Association all-rookie team — for the starting slot but eventually fell into a supporting role after Brittain emerged as one of the top freshmen in the nation.

Over the course of their competition, the goaltending rivals developed a tight bond. So when it was announced early in the summer that Brittain might miss the entire 2011–12 campaign due to reconstructive knee surgery, Murray was more concerned about consoling his friend than basking in his sudden promotion.

“It was a real shocker,” Murray says. “Me and Sam, we’d been working hard all spring and we went into the summer with the mindset that we would be battling and pushing each other into the season. It definitely wasn’t expected and caught me off guard, but you have to make the best of every situation. I would never wish anything bad on Sam. We grew into great friends.”

While Brittain slowly heals, Murray will be in the spotlight for a Pioneers squad that harbors legitimate Frozen Four aspirations.

Murray appeared in eight games during his freshman year at DU as backup to All-American Marc Cheverie. He posted a 3-4-1 record in those games.

The Anchorage, Alaska, native and psychology major then entered the 2010–11 campaign in an open competition with Brittain. The duo split starts during DU’s first two series of the season. Yet it did not take long for Brittain to assume control of the starting role, finishing his rookie campaign with impressive marks (2.28 goals-against average, .921 saves percentage) while leading the Pioneers to their first victory in the NCAA tournament since the 2005 national championship run.

Murray admits his confidence wavered as his playing time dwindled, eventually finishing the season with a 6-3 record and a disappointing .879 saves percentage in 11 games.

Murray surrendered a pair of short-handed goals in his final start at Nebraska-Omaha on Feb. 25 and did not appear in DU’s final nine games.

“Adam certainly has the physical skills to play at this level and has improved tremendously since he got here,” Gwozdecky says. “He feels bad for Sam because they are good friends, but the team has to count on him now, and he’s eager to accept this challenge.”

Although Gwozdecky and his staff brought in reinforcements to add depth at the goaltender spot, Murray has the most big-game experience in goal.

A product of the prestigious United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., Murray recorded two shutouts while leading the United States to a gold medal at the 2009 Under-18 World Championships.

Murray also posted a career-best 34 saves in relief of Cheverie against Wisconsin at the 2010 WCHA Final Five.

While big moments aren’t anything new, Murrray just hopes to have a few more of them while Brittain’s knee mends.

“I think the big thing for me is being confident in the product I’m selling,” Murray says. “If I keep playing the way I prepare and play in practice, I’ll be in good shape. If I do that, I think we’ll be in good shape. It’s hard not to think of the possibilities, but we all have to embrace every game one at a time.”

Murray and the rest of the Pioneers take on Minnesota State at 7:37 p.m. Oct. 21 in their 2010-11 home opener. For tickets, visit the Pioneers website.

 

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