OPENING FACEOFF – When the Union men’s hockey schedule was released over the summer, one game in particular caught senior goalie Connor Murphy’s eye.
Dec. 3, vs. Northeastern, at Messa Rink.
Murphy, a Hudson Falls native, spent the first two years of his college hockey career at Northeastern. He was the team’s No. 1 goalie during the 2020-21 season, posting a 9-9-3 record with a 2.72 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and two shutouts.
Murphy transferred to Union following that season. Now, he is thrilled to face his former team, which is ranked 18th in the country, on Saturday night.
“I was excited, obviously,” Murphy said at the team’s media availability Tuesday at Messa. “It’s obviously my old team. I know a lot of those guys, and I think it’s going to be really exciting to play against them and I’m really hoping to beat them.”
Murphy, who set the Union single-season record for saves with 1,060, understands that he can’t get too overly hyped for this non-conference contest that will start at 7 p.m. If he gets too carried away, it will affect his play and hurt his team.
“It’s going to be a lot of excitement around it, but it’s just another game for us,” said Murphy, who is 5-6-1 with a 3.37 GAA, a .890 save percentage and one shutout. It’s a different one for me, but for everybody else, it’s just another game, so I don’t think anything really changes.”
Murphy’s teammates understand what Saturday’s game means to him.
“It’s a special moment for him,” Union junior forward Liam Robertson said. “You don’t really get to do that very often in college hockey. But it is just another game for the rest of us, just like he said earlier, but we’re going to do our best for him.”
Union junior forward Tyler Watkins said, “Obviously, it’s a special game for him, but we’re just going to try to treat it like any other game. I think it’s when you’re going to find the most success. As soon as you start treating it like a special game, it’s normally when things don’t go as well.”
Union head coach Josh Hauge certainly knows what Murphy is going through. Last month, Hauge went through a similar experience returning to Clarkson, where he was an assistant coach for seven years.
“We haven’t spoken about it,” Hauge said. “We’re just sort of approaching it similar to when I was going back to Clarkson. Everybody’s aware that it’s going on, but it’s not a focal point. It’s not Connor Murphy versus Northeastern. It’s Union versus Northeastern. That’s our mindset.”
Murphy and the Dutchmen will be facing Devon Levi in goal for Northeastern. Levi won last year’s Mike Richter Award as the nation’s best college goalie after posting a 21-10-1 record with a 1.54 GAA and a .952 save percentage. This season, Levi is 7-4-3 with a 2.11 GAA and a .936 save percentage.
“He’s a very talented goalie, and it’s going to be tough to put some by him,” Murphy said. “But I know it’s possible because I’ve seen it. He’s got a lot of skill to his game, and he’s very dedicated to his game, which I’ve seen firsthand.”
Murphy is hoping is past his cramping issue, which has forced him out of two games this season, including Union’s last contest against Harvard on Nov. 19.
“I feel good,” Murphy said. “Obviously, we’ll see what happens on Saturday. I’m trying to make sure I’m hydrating throughout the week and eating [properly] right now just to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Right now, it’s kind of an unknown source as to why it’s happening. But I feel good. My legs feel good. My body, energy-wise, feels pretty good, so I think it’s going to be alright.”
Mike Addesa, who coached the RPI men’s hockey team to the 1985 NCAA title, died on Tuesday. He was 77.
The Worcester Railers Junior Hockey Club, of which Addesa was the general manager, announced his passing on Twitter.
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of our beloved Coach Michael Addesa Jr.,” the tweet said. “‘Coach’ passed peacefully [Tuesday] surrounded by loved ones. Please keep the Addesa family in your prayers during this time of grieving.”
Adessa became coach of the Engineers in 1979. Recruiting players like Adam Oates, Daren Puppa and John Carter, the Engineers became one of the most dominant teams in the country. They were upset by North Dakota in the 1984 NCAA tournament quarterfinals at Houston Field House. The following year, RPI went 35-2-1 and won the NCAA title, beating Minnesota Duluth 6-5 in triple overtime in the semifinal, and then edging Providence 2-1 in the championship game.
Adessa’s RPI career ended in controversy in 1989. He resigned after he was accused of making racial remarks to two Black players. Of those players, Graeme Townshend, who went on to play in the NHL, forgave Addesa and supported him.
“My coach is, and was not, a racist,” Townshend told The Hockey News in 2019 that was referenced in College Hockey News’ story on Addesa’s death. “He got [upset] and it slipped and we talked about it literally a half-hour after he said it and it was over. And it didn’t come out in the paper until the end of the season because people in the administration didn’t like the coach. They used me to punish the coach and that’s not fair.”
Addesa, who posted a 186-124-9 record, returned to RPI for the 25th anniversary of the team’s 1985 title in 2010. I talked to him about coming back, and he was excited about it.
“When you get down the road, and I have just turned 65, you say how many opportunities like this will be there to spend time with people that were so special in your life,” Addesa said. “You’re just not going to get that many opportunities. The mailing came in, and my wife Mary saw the RPI [envelope] and she opened it and she shared it with our family members before I knew anything about it at all.”
UNION WOMEN BACK IN ACTION
The Union women’s hockey team entered the first trimester final exam break on a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1).
The Dutchwomen play their first game since beating RPI 2-1 in overtime Nov. 15 when they host fourth-ranked Quinnipiac at 6 p.m. Friday at Messa Rink.
Union faces a tough task against the Bobcats, but they are ready.
“It’s going to be a test,” Union head coach Josh Sciba said. “It’ll be a challenge for our group. I think they’re ready. I think they’re excited. We’ve had some time off now, so I know our group is motivated to play a really good team. I think we’re hungry to continue building on what we’ve already done. We understand how we need to play to have success.”
The Dutchwomen don’t believe the long layoff will hurt them.
“We’ve had this happen twice,” team captain Emily King said. “Before, maybe I was a little nervous, but not this time because we’re kind of used to it.”
Union will host Princeton at 3 p.m. Saturday, its final home game of 2022.
ECACH MEN’S POWER RANKINGS
Here are my latest ECAC Hockey power rankings.
Quinnipiac — Won the Friendship Four tournament last weekend.
Harvard — Went 0-1-1 at Michigan.
Cornell — Shocked UConn 6-0 at MSG last Saturday
Clarkson — Had last weekend off.
Union — Returns to action Saturday after three weeks off.
RPI — Split weekend series with Vermont
Colgate — Lost a pair of 3-2 games at Niagara last weekend.
Brown — Went 2-1, including Mayor’s Cup win over crosstown-foe Providence on Saturday.
Princeton — Pulled off an impressive 5-0 win at RIT last Saturday.
St. Lawrence — Lost at Providence in its only game last weekend.
Dartmouth — Lost twice in Friendship Four.
Yale — Lost to USNDTP in overtime last Sunday.
Contact Ken Schott by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @slapschotts.