Murphy’s strong performance earns Union men’s hockey a tie against Army West Point

Union goalie Connor Murphy, Army West Point forward Jake Felker and Dutchmen defenseman John Prokop look for the puck during Sunday's college hockey game at Tate Rink in West Point. (Army West Point Athletics Photo)

Union goalie Connor Murphy, Army West Point forward Jake Felker and Dutchmen defenseman John Prokop look for the puck during Sunday's college hockey game at Tate Rink in West Point. (Army West Point Athletics Photo)

WEST POINT Whenever Union goalie Connor Murphy has an off night, he always seems to bounce back in his next game.

That was evident Sunday against Army West Point at Tate Rink.

Murphy made 30 saves, including a critical one in overtime, to help the Dutchmen preserve a 2-2 tie against the Black Knights.

Union technically won the game, winning the shootout 2-1 in six rounds. The NCAA introduced shootouts to non-conference games this season, but the game still goes down as a tie.

Murphy gave up a couple of soft goals in Union’s season-opening 4-3 win over RIT on Saturday at Messa Rink. He didn’t let that bother him Sunday against Army West Point.

“Obviously it’s important [to bounce back], not just for me, but for the team all together,” the Hudson Falls-native Murphy said. “I always try to do everything for the team. Obviously, I realized that I could have done a little bit better last night. So I wasn’t ideal. But I knew today coming in I had to step up my game a little bit.”

Did he ever in the overtime period.

Murphy made four saves, and he got some help from the crossbar. The one save he made defied logic. Max Itagaki had an easy one-timer tap in with 2:27 left in OT. Somehow, Murphy slid over to his right and got his pad on it. The groan from Army West Point fans was loud.

“I thought I read the play pretty well,” Murphy said. “I saw that [Itagaki] was backdoor, so he had an option and there wasn’t really a shooting lane for him. I was lucky enough to slide over and make the save.”

It was tough for Union first-year head coach Josh Hauge to describe.

“It was unbelievable,” Hauge said. “It’s just pure athleticism.”

Murphy’s teammates were impressed.

“He’s such a good goaltender,” said Union freshman forward Nate Hanley, who gave Union a 1-0 lead in the first period with his first collegiate goal and then scored the shootout-winning goal in the sixth round. “That one save he had backdoor was unreal. I don’t know how else to describe it.”

The Dutchmen needed Murphy’s strong play because for the majority of the game, they were a step slow. Passes weren’t crisp. They failed to score on a five-minute power play in the first period. After not getting penalized against RIT, Union took six penalties against Army West Point.

When Michael Sacco scored 2:01 into the third period to give the Black Knights a 2-1 lead, it appeared they had the momentum. But 5:15 later, Owen Farris intercepted a pass at the Union blue line and went in on a breakaway. His first shot was stopped by goalie Gavin Abric, but the rebound came back to Farris and he fired it home.

“Playing a Sunday game against a team that didn’t play the night before, they had a little advantage coming in,” Farris said. “But I think our will to win was huge. Giving up that 2-1 goal and then coming back. Yeah, it was me who ended up getting it, but there were a lot of guys that had a lot of different chances at different points of the game, and we just knew it was coming. It was sort of a belief from within us that we were able to push through and make it a tie and I’m gonna go for that win.”

Union was perfect on its penalty kill. Hauge was happy to see that.

“It was great,” Hauge said. “[Assistant] coach LC [Lennie Childs] does an unbelievable job with it. They have a culture of toughness, and they were able to instill that tonight. We’re proud of that group and proud of them to get that opportunity because, obviously, [Saturday] we didn’t see it.”

Besides Hanley, Chris Theodore scored in the third round of the shootout for Union. Joey Baez, who scored Army’s first goal of the game, also scored in the third round of the shootout.

Hauge questioned the need to have a shootout in non-conference games. There are shootouts in conference games, but they are three-point games (three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss). If a conference game goes to a shootout, it is a tie for overall records purposes.

“There is no reason for it other than maybe now we feel a little bit better about ourselves because we technically won, but it’s a tie,” Hauge said.

  • Union 1 0 1 0 — 2
  • Army West Point 0 1 1 0 — 2
  • Union wins shootout 2-1
  • First Period — 1, Union, Hanley 1 (Mell, Nixon), 5:55. Penalties — Wilson, AWP, major-game misconduct (hitting from behind), 11:14.
  • Second Period — 2, Army West Point, Baez 1 (Vlasich, Abdelnour), 16:56. Penalties — Union bench, served by Nixon (too many men), 4:43; Petruolo, Uni (cross-checking), 11:41; Tupker, Uni (delay of game), 19:57.
  • Third Period — 3, Army West Point, Sacco 1 (R.Farrell, T. Farrell), 2:01. 4, Union, Farris 1, 7:16. Penalties — Prokop, Uni (interference), 8:05; Korpi, Uni (tripping), 14:26; Farris, Uni (interference), 19:00.
  • Overtime — None. Penalties — None.
  • Shootout — Union (2): Benz, NG; Prokop, NG; Theodore, G; Nixon, NG; Villegas, NG; Hanley, G. Army West Point (1): Firriolo, NG; Huss, NG; Baez, G; Itagaki, NG; Keranen, NG; Abdelnour, NG.
  • Shots on Goal — Union 8-6-8-1 — 23. Army West Point 7-13-8-4 — 32.
  • Power-play opportunities — Union 0 of 1; Army West Point 0 of 6.
  • Goalies — Union, Murphy 1-0-1 (32 shots-30 saves). Army West Point, Abric 0-0-1 (23-21).
  • A — 1,463. T — 2:42.
  • Referees — William Brennan III, Ron Morello. Linesmen — Bobby Griffin, Joshua Berenson.

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