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Kaz Watch: Playing on the Edge Gets the Best Out of Abbey Murphy

03/12/2024, 11:30am MDT
By Nicole Haase

The redshirt junior leads the country with 33 goals this season.

Junior forward Abbey Murphy taps the gloves of her teammates after scoring in her white and maroon Minnesota jersey.

An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. The 2024 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner will be announced on March 23 in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four in Durham, New Hampshire. The 2024 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Show will be broadcast live from the Whittemore Center Arena Lobby beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET on NHL Network.

Heading into the season, everyone in Minneapolis knew the Gophers would be a very different team than last year. They graduated 11 players who were responsible for more than half of the team’s points and had been the heart and soul of the squad for several years. 

Redshirt junior forward Abbey Murphy had enjoyed two seasons learning from the likes of Taylor Heise and Grace Zumwinkle. Murphy benefitted from playing alongside them but did not receive the brunt of opponents’ attention; she wasn’t expected to be a leader and was able to play freely. 

The Evergreen Park, Illinois, native did not have that luxury this season. 

As the roster experienced massive turnover, Minnesota coach Brad Frost needed Murphy to anchor the team’s offense and become a leader in the locker room, and he said she has risen to the challenge. 

Patty Kaz: Abbey Murphy (School: Minnesota, Class: Junior Position: Forward, Hometown: Evergreen Park, Ill., Statistics: 60 points in 38 games - 33G, 27A)

Murphy spent time this offseason thinking about how she was going to approach the season and working on actualization.

“I learned from great leaders and great players,” Murphy said. “The way they came to the rink every day looking to get better, that’s the role I wanted to fulfill this year. You have to go into every game with a positive mindset, with a strong mind. I’m just trying to be the best leader I can be.”

After scoring 50 points last season, Murphy has put up 60 so far this year and leads the country with 33 goals in 38 games. That production led to her being a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. 

At times this season, it felt as though Murphy was the only player producing for her team and yet none of their opponents seemed to be able to slow her down.  

“She’s getting everybody’s best,” Frost said. “Opponents are putting their top defensive pair against her, and she was still able to produce an incredible level. For her to do what she has done this year is pretty exceptional. To lead the country in goals and to be a threat every time she's on the ice has been something. She’s such a competitor.”

Murphy said finding ways to go around the best defenders is a challenge she relishes. 

Self-described as highly driven with unmatched competitiveness, Murphy’s focus before now had been on scoring goals. This season she has learned that she gets the same level of accomplishment from teeing up her teammates with a perfect pass or denying a scoring opportunity in the defensive zone. Frost called her “shifty and fast” and talked about how well she can move the puck within the zone. 

Instead of forcing the puck, Murphy will circle the zone a few times looking for seams to feed her linemates and create dangerous net-front chances. She uses her speed and puck-handling to hold on to the puck as she looks for open ice. When those plays come together, Murphy said the feeling is unmatched. 

“It is pure joy,” she said. “Just being in the zone and you don’t think you have any momentum and creating it for yourself and your linemates and giving a team a whooping in the offensive zone, finding that is pure joy when I make a pass and my linemates find a way to put it in the back of the net.”

An aggressive and physical player, Murphy knows she has a reputation, but said she doesn’t know how to be any other way. She’s a big personality who likes to get under opponents’ skin and is known for being hard as nails on the ice.

“She wants to win so bad,” Frost said. “She's just incredibly competitive and she is absolutely somebody that you want on your team. When she’s on your team, she’s exactly what you need. If she didn’t play with that competitiveness and that chip on her shoulder, she would not be as effective as she is.” 

Murphy said her scrappiness in part comes from growing up with two older brothers. She has tried to be smarter about physicality and taking penalties, but said she tries not to overthink things, as well. If she started playing more cautiously, she wouldn’t be who she is. 

There is a lot of work she can do as a player and as a person, Murphy admitted, but she also isn’t going to stop being the assertive player that earned her way onto the U.S. Women’s National Team roster for two World Championships and an Olympics before she was 21. 

“I don’t think when I play, I just kind of go,” she said. “I like to play my game, do what I can and make any impact as much as I can. I do like to push buttons, but it is also about finding that balance, which was hard for me at first. It’s kind of learning when to and when not to, but I’m never going to change. I like my style of play. It’s gotten me here, so I’m going to continue doing it.”

This season Murphy has accounted for 25% of Minnesota’s goals, including seven game-winners and 13 power-play tallies. There is no doubt in Frost’s mind that Murphy has been the engine driving her team all year and has helped propel them to the NCAA Tournament.

“We wouldn’t be the same team without her,” Frost said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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