With the season the Penn State men’s hockey team has put together, it’s understandable there would be some consternation about adding a new player to the roster.
The Nittany Lions added a new face during the holiday break, with freshman Brett Murray joining the team. He is the first player to be added to the roster in the middle of the season since the team moved to Division I four-plus years ago.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward brings a strong resume as a fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, but talent doesn’t necessarily solve issues.
When head coach Guy Gadowsky and his staff settled on the plan for Murray to enroll for the spring semester, they had no idea their team would be top-five in the national rankings, take off on an 11-game win streak, and possess the nation’s best record.
“When that plan was in place, we hadn’t won a game yet, or lost a game, but that was the plan,” Gadowsky said. “We didn’t know at this point what our record would be.”
As the Nittany Lions progressed through the first half of the season, there were plenty of conversations whether to stick with the plan, keeping the chemistry question in mind.
That was when, according to Gadowsky, Murray said: “I know for the rest of my career I’m going to have to earn every minute of ice time I get. I have no problem starting now.”
“I love that,” Gadowsky said. “That statement alone made me feel this will work out fine.”
The forward from Bolton, Ontario, Canada has been practicing since Dec. 28 after playing juniors the last few months in Youngstown, Ohio.
“You’ve got to keep working,” Murray said. “You can’t really get down on yourself if you’re not playing right away. They’re doing so well right now.”
Murray hasn’t seen a game at Pegula Ice Arena yet — his first will be at 7 p.m. Friday when they host Michigan State — but he traveled with them last weekend to Ohio State.
“The game speed’s a little bit different, obviously,” Murray said. “I’m adjusting well and the guys are helping me out a lot.”
Before Youngstown, Murray played at Carleton Place, a junior team near Toronto, which also produced this year’s top goal-scorer, Andrew Sturtz. They were not teammates, but did live with the same billet family (host family) and met a couple times over the last year, and Sturtz heard good reviews.
Gadowsky said fans will “probably see him soon,” but declined to say specifically when Murray would play. But Nittany Lion players have been welcoming to the new guy and adjusting to his presence.
“We trust the coaches,” captain David Goodwin said. “Anything that can help regardless of the success, or not success, we’ve been having this year we’re going to welcome him.”