If you were looking for a likely candidate to put an end to the longest game in Hockey East history, Maine junior Ben Murphy would not have headed your list.
Coming into Saturday’s championship game, the junior from North Andover, Mass., had just two goals in 36 games played this season and 11 goals in 107 career collegiate games. Just to make him even more unlikely, add the fact that he got laid out by Boston University forward Steve Greeley in Friday’s semifinal win.
Then, for good measure, he was hammered into the boards halfway through the first of tonight’s three overtimes by Massachusetts junior defenseman Dusty Demianiuk-a play that would have resulted in a hitting from behind penalty at an earlier point in the game. Seeing Murphy lie on the ice for a good minute, no one could imagine that he would end netting the game-winner two periods later.
Maine Coach Tim Whitehead readily agreed that Murphy hasn’t been a headline grabber before tonight, but he has been a key factor of their remarkable season.
“He certainly is very much an unsung hero for us this year,” Whitehead said. “In fact, we have a Center Ice group that meets every couple of Mondays, and they talk about the team and so on. They voted Ben Murphy as the Unsung Hero, and I thought it was a very appropriate pick. He certainly made them proud tonight.”
Obviously, netting the game-winner of this epic battle also helped Murphy smile through the aches and pains.
“I’m pretty tired right now; I’ve got cramps,” Murphy said. “I got my shot of coffee from Coach [Campbell] Blair before the second overtime which I think got me through it.”
According to Murphy, the team’s attitude remained incredibly positive in the face of a valiant effort by the Minutemen to pull off a win that would lead them to their first-ever national tournament appearance.
“The team was really upbeat,” Murphy said. “Obviously everybody gets really tired after that many minutes, but the emotions in the game and the emotions in the locker room.This team is so upbeat this year, and everybody loves each other. That’s what makes it so much nicer, coming through with a win in this game.”
It was fitting for the fourth line of Murphy along with Cameron Lyall and John Ronan to notch the championship clincher, as they had proved to be a pesky forechecking presence for much of the contest.
“That whole line though was very strong for us,” Whitehead said. “They don’t get opportunities on the power play, and those are the guys that you need to rise to the occasion. I do think that they were very strong from start to finish. That’s inspiring when you’re so-called fourth line can play that strong; it really lifts up the other guys.
“We do rely on using all our weapons. It’s not unusual for our team for a player like Murph or Cam Lyall or Matty Deschamps-three guys that are not on our power play-to come through in the heat of the moment. This has happened for us several times.”
“Definitely this is the biggest goal [of my career],” Murphy said. “After playing for that long and playing with these guys, it’s definitely the sweetest. Now we’ve got about 15 minutes to enjoy it, and then we’ve got to be ready for next weekend.”
Murphy may think of this as his proverbial 15 minutes of fame. Don’t count on it, though. After Saturday, he won’t be unsung in Maine hockey lore.