Monday, March 16, 2009

Coach Rob Murray Gets AHL’s First Victory

October 9, 2008
By Thomas Chace Jr.

The Providence Bruins played the American Hockey League’s first game of the 2008-09 season last night at the newly renovated Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI. On opening night, new head coach, Rob Murray, was given the game puck by another newcomer, center Marty St. Pierre, after the P-Bruins beat the Lowell Devils 4-3 in an overtime shootout. St. Pierre scored along with Mikko Lehtonen on their shootout opportunities while goaltender Tuukka Rask thwarted all of Lowell’s chances. For Coach Murray it was a somewhat nerve-racking day as he approached his first game as head coach of the very successful Providence Bruins franchise. “It was great. I was real nervous standing there during all the introductions, which probably made it worse because it seemed to take forever. I was pretty pumped up. I was very nervous when I woke up this morning, but once you get in the confines of the rink and get around the guys that nervousness subsides.”

Murray, an assistant coach for five years with the P-Bruins, is getting his first opportunity to be a head coach at any level. Yesterday, he found out before his first game that his roster was still in flux. Jeremy Reich and Peter Schaefer both cleared waivers and reported to the team. The Boston Bruins also assigned forward Vladimir Sobotka to the P-Bruins. Returning captain, Nate Thompson, did not clear waivers. He was claimed by former Providence coach Scott Gordon, who now coaches the New York Islanders. In regards to Thompson, Murray said, “he was disappointed not to get Thompson back, but I believe Nate is an NHL caliber player and so does Scott Gordon, and that was the problem with that scenario. We all saw it coming, it was not surprising and I wish him all the best. I know he’ll do well.”

Murray’s first win was not pretty by any stretch, but a win is a win, especially in your coaching debut. The game was pretty sloppy and lacked any real flow due to poor ice conditions and an inordinate number of infractions called. The game was chippy at times, especially after several Bruins were hit from behind on two different occasions. With the loss of true heavyweight Steve Macintyre, the P-Bruins will rely on team toughness as evidenced in their response to the incidents. Murray was impressed with the response from his team, and praised Ryan Stokes for taking on several Devils after those hits.

Providence led 3-1 early in the second period, but Lowell’s creative Russian rookie Vladimir Zharkov scored halfway through the second, and again in the third period to tie the score at 3-3. Providence goaltender, Tuukka Rask, made several big saves with less than five minutes left in regulation and stoned all four chances by Lowell in the shootout. Rask was perhaps the best goalie in Boston’s training camp this year and was disappointed in being assigned back to Providence. However, Murray says, “he has come down with a real good attitude. I like the way he has approached it and I’ve talked to him about taking on the onus of a leadership role; he has embraced that and I believe that will help him to be very successful.” The Providence Bruins have a tough act to follow after last years AHL best record, but they have one of the greatest AHL players in history to show them how to be successful in hockey and in life.

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