Murray having a strong stretch for Hancock

While it would be easy to sit here and write about how impressive the Hancock Bulldogs hockey team’s “Black” line of Teddy Randell, Alex Nordstrom, and Lance Kangas is, there is another story which does not garner the same headlines, but might be even more important to the success of the Bulldogs at this point in the season.

Cam Murray has had to start the last three straight games for the Bulldogs, going 3-0 during that stretch while only giving up three goals and earning a shutout.

Head coach Dan Rouleau has been thrilled with the effort Murray has given him, especially during a 7-1 win on Saturday over Escanaba, and he praised his goaltender accordingly.

“He played a great game again,” said Rouleau. “This could have been a closer game without Cam in net.”

Rouleau also felt that Murray was a big part of why the team defense has been solid despite missing Kero for an extended period now.

“To have your backup goalie come in and play as well as he has been playing, that’s why we are still ending up only giving up a goal or two a game,” said Rouleau.

Rouleau felt the one spot where Murray really shone Saturday was during a major penalty kill.

“I told the guys we did a great job of penalty killing and our goaltender was a big part of that,” said Rouleau. “If your goalie doesn’t make the big saves shorthanded, obviously you are giving up power play goals. Cam played great on that penalty kill.”

Now a senior, Hancock’s backup goaltender had the opportunity to start a number of games in a row as a sophomore while the Bulldogs waited patiently for freshman Dawson Kero to complete his recovery from offseason surgery.

Murray started 10 games that season, opening with a 4-2 loss to Marquette on the road before splitting with Calumet in the Copper Island Classic.

He started two more games in a row before the MacInnes Holiday Classic just after Christmas. Kero was ready to go at that point, and he made the bulk of the starts from that point forward, with Murray picking up mop-up duty against Negaunee twice and Kingsford once along with two other games.

Last season, Murray was slotted firmly in the backup role and he struggled in his new role, limping to a 5-4 win over Traverse City Central in a game where he saw 18 shots in relief.

Then disaster struck.

Murray’s first start was on Dec. 21 against Jeffers. The Bulldogs were riding high coming into the game. After dropping their first two games in overtime to Marquette and Calumet, the Bulldogs had won four in a row, defeating Calumet, Houghton, Traverse City Central and Escanaba.

Murray made the start and Hancock jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The Jets scored four of the game’s next five goals before Teddy Randell evened things to force overtime.

In that extra session a miscue allowed Brendan Middleton to get loose and skate in alone on Murray before beating him with a well-placed wrist shot for the game-winning goal.

Murray’s next start came against Negaunee in a 14-1 win. He started again 10 days later, against Negaunee again in a 12-1 win. He only made three more starts after that.

That loss galvanized the Bulldogs for their second-half surge to a state championship, but Murray watched most of it from the bench as Kero shined.

Kero was hurt in the Bulldogs’ third game of the season this year when he was run into by Calumet captain Rory Anderson at the Calumet Colosseum.

Enter Murray as the No. 1 again.

Murray’s first start this season was against Hancock’s closest rival, Houghton, at Dee Stadium. The senior was strong throughout the night, making 25 saves to earn the win. He followed that win with a 17-save victory over Traverse City Central before defeating Escanaba last Saturday.

Whether Murray makes another start this season or he doesn’t at all from this week forward, his contributions to the season have already had an impact.