ALBANY — The only object of any consequence that got behind Connor Murphy on Saturday night was his water bottle.
RPI crashed Murphy’s net early in the second period of the annual Mayor’s Cup rivalry game at MVP Arena, knocking the plastic bottle off the top and toward the end boards. Next whistle, Murphy retrieved it and took a long pull.
There was more than a little bit of symbolism there.
In the meantime, the Engineers did not get a puck past Union’s senior goalie for the second year in a row, a remarkable feat in this series of stand-alone games for a big trophy, a series that resides outside the schools’ ECAC Hockey business, but rents space in the heads of all of the players and coaches involved.
The only similarity between the back-to-back Mayor’s Cup shutouts for Murphy was the zero in the RPI half of the scoring ledger. Last year, Murphy and Union nursed a 1-0 lead for most of the game before an empty-netter late for a 2-0 final. On Saturday, the Dutchmen piled on early, and by the start of the third period, the only remaining question was whether Murphy would keep a clean sheet.
He did, stopping all 28 shots on net for a 6-0 victory.
So, back to the water bottle.
The first rule, when it comes to the blue-painted real estate that makes up Murphy’s crease: “Hydration, hydration, hydration.”
On two occasions this season, Union’s senior goalie’s biochemistry has forced him out of games — and nearly a third — because of an irksome tendency of his bodily fluids to get out of whack.
These days, there doesn’t seem to be much mystery about proper hydration and electrolyte balance. You learned that your body was 60% water in, what, second grade? They invented Gatorade in 1965. End of story, right?
I always crack up when I see people running a 5k road race with a fanny pack bandolier of little drink bottles, but in Murphy’s case, it’s no joke.
He was pulled from games against UConn and Harvard this season, and continues to deal with this issue, somehow managing to shake off dehydration symptoms in a game against Colgate as recently as three weeks ago.
This isn’t a goofy, inexperienced freshman slamming a slice of pizza and a soft pretzel in the locker room between pre-game warmups and puck drop. Murphy is a serious 24-year-old senior majoring in managerial economics who knows what routines to follow to get ready for games, and is learning new ones, in light of the water question.
“I wish it was simple,” he said in the MVP Arena hallway outside the interview room, the Mayor’s Cup trophy waiting patiently at his feet.
“I could probably be here for a couple hours explaining how everything was going down and what I’ve had to do with it. Luckily, I’m heading in the right direction where I’m figuring out what I need to do in order to prevent it.
“It’s frustrating for me, obviously, when I can’t finish games.”
Union essentially finished Saturday’s game not too long after it started.
Murphy, who has adjusted the timing of his pre-game meal to a couple hours closer to game-time, has gels to rub on his arms and legs to offset lactic acid and dissolves electrolyte packs in his game bottle, was a big part of it.
He stopped a backhand after John Beaton got behind the defense when the score was still 0-0, then in the second period, Murphy blocked a snap shot through traffic off the paddle and smothered TJ Walsh’s rebound shot with his glove.
Tyler Watkins delivered the kill shot on the Engineers, who were seconds from heading into second intermission down 3-0. Watkins made it 4-0 with 2.4 seconds left, at which point it was all over but the shutouting.
Murphy was shaken up momentarily early in the third period by a shot that “kind of hit me in the neck, collarbone area, and a few minutes later he robbed Ryan Mahshie in alone during a 4-on-4.
“It’s a comfort level where I had it [big lead] earlier in the game, and it was a lot easier to play with,” Murphy said. “We got that third one, which was huge. That took it to another level, so we could just hit the gas.”
These teams and their respective fans hate each other, but goaltenders are in their own category, a separate species that allows for some empathy.
So Murphy said he felt for RPI starting goalie Jack Watson, who was pulled for Brett Miller heading into the locker room with the Engineers down 4-0.
“Of course, yeah,” Murphy said. “I think every goalie has respect for the goalie on the other team. In the second period we gave a little fist bump there. There’s always a respect factor, and you’ve got to feel bad, but a game is a game. I’m just happy that our team came out on top.”
And this time, the guy puzzling through the managerial economics of simple hydration didn’t have to sweat it out.
Contact Mike MacAdam at [email protected]. Follow on Twittter @Mike_MacAdam.
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Categories: College Sports, Sports, Union College