A former Portage Terrier is preparing for his freshman season in the NCAA. Defenceman Owen Murray will be playing out this year with the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Minutemen.
The Decker, Manitoba product spent the last two seasons in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers, where he totalled 38 points in 97 games and was named an Assistant Captain in his final year with the club. Murray says he doesn't have many goals for this season and just wants to go with the flow.
"I think it's kind of similar to when I first showed up in Portage. I don't really know what to expect, you just come in with an open mindset. I'll play a role of some sort, I don't really know what yet, but whatever they give me, I'll be doing the most with the opportunity," Murray continues. "It's a team-first mindset here, we have a really good culture, and our coaches are unbelievable. I just really want to put my best foot forward and contribute as much as I can to help the team win."
Murray is joining a Minutemen program that has made an appearance in the NCAA Division 1 National Championship Tournament in three of the last four years, including making the Frozen Four twice, winning the tournament in 2021. After a few weeks of training camp at UMass, Murray describes what the most significant adjustment will be playing in the NCAA.
"I think the biggest jump for me will be, obviously, everywhere you go, you play skilled players, but at this level, it's just a lot more detailed systematically. Everybody does things right, passes are crisp, and the physicality has gone up a lot as well. I think that's a part of the game at this level, and that's something we bring to practice every day: high physicality, high pace, and high tempo."
#MJHLAlumni | Owen Murray with a nice PP finish for the @GamblersHockey in @USHL action!— #theMJ (@mjhlhockey) April 16, 2021
Murray committed to @NCAAIceHockey 2021 National Champions @UMassHockey during his time in the #MJHL with the @PortageTerriers pic.twitter.com/3AytKj8RG2
The 19-year-old feels like he has fit in quite well through the first few weeks of practice. Murray says his main objective in the beginning of this season is to show the coaches how hard he can compete and to do all the little things right. The defenceman notes he will be entering this season with confidence as the coaches have encouraged him to play his game.
"This is the first time in a few years that I've felt really comfortable. They've preached to everybody to be ourselves. Whatever our identity is, they want us to stick to it. Mistakes are obviously going to happen but the biggest thing is going to be rebounding from them," Murray explains. "I think the biggest thing is sticking to what I know and my game."
Despite being a freshman, Murray believes he'll be able to make an impact with the Minutemen in his rookie campaign.
"I think I'll be able to jump right into it a little bit and get my fair share of opportunities. Obviously, I'm not going to jump right to the top of the team. We have guys that have been here for a while and know what they're doing," Murray continues. "There will be a lot of learning along the way but I think I'm prepared and ready for some opportunities."
While Murray says the competition will be tougher, the schedule is a little more tame. He notes they play between 30 and 40 games, with matches mainly taking place on the weekends.
"There's a lot more work during the week with preparation and building yourself off the ice and in practice. It just makes games that much more important every weekend because they go by fast, there's not as many of them, and you need to win as many as possible to help yourself on that playoff run to make the national tournament."
During his time as a Portage Terrier from 2018 to 2020, he put up 67 points in 85 regular season games and added 13 postseason points.
Murray's younger brother Jordan is now following in his footsteps as he has cracked the Terriers roster as a 16-year-old, just as Owen did. Portage being the host of the Centennial Cup this year has a guaranteed birth in that tournament and Owen's rookie season was the last time the Terriers were involved in the tournament.
The 19-year-old talks about his brother, and what he can bring to the Terriers.
"It's pretty cool to see. I've got to watch his progress over the last few years and how he's pushed through not being able to play through COVID, that was really tough for a lot of kids but he's taken a lot of strides in those two years. He is definitely deserving of that opportunity and that draft pick (6th overall). I don't think it was a family thing, I think he's ready for that. Hopefully, he'll contribute a lot to the Centennial Cup run for Portage. I'm really excited to see what he can do this year."
Murray and the Minutemen play two exhibition games at the beginning of October, with their season officially getting underway on October 14 against the University of Denver.