Competition proving valuable for UMass goalies

  • UMass goalie Filip Lindberg, right, blocks a shot from Lewis Zerter-Gossage, of Harvard, center, during the NCAA Division tournament, Friday, March 29, 2019 at SNHU Arena in Manchester, N.H. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass goalie Matt Murray, right, eyes the puck as Niko Hildenbrand, center, blocks Andrew Gaus, of Yale, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 at the Mullins Center. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/7/2019 7:42:57 PM

AMHERST — At this time last year, Greg Carvel was just hopeful he would find a goalie consistent enough to trust.

UMass had all the firepower on paper that it needed to make history last season, but it needed better goaltending than what it had received during the 2017-18 season. Matt Murray was coming off a shaky freshman campaign and Filip Lindberg was a talented freshman who the coaches hoped would settle into the North American game. The tandem erased all doubts last season while backstopping the nation’s seventh-best scoring defense and both finishing among the top 25 in save percentage.

A new season has emerged and Carvel now has to balance keeping both goalies as sharp as they were last season.

“We’re going to have to be smart about it, but it’s going to be on those two guys to still practice at a high level,” goalies coach Jared DeMichiel said. “They need to play well in practice and have it bleed over into the games.”

Entering the sixth and final week of practice before Friday’s season opener, both Lindberg and Murray have made the coaches’ decision that much harder with their play in practice. Neither one has willingly ceded an inch in the friendly competition between the pair, and both of them credit that to the presence of the other one.

“I couldn’t ask for anything else,” Murray said. “When you’re on the ice with someone who’s pushing you consistently, there’s only one way you’re going to go, and that’s up. There’s only one thing you’re going to do and that’s getting better. That’s the best case scenario that anybody could look at, especially for a team having two strong goalies, and then me personally having that competition keep pushing me day in and day out.”

Lindberg said knowing Murray’s work ethic has helped him stay motivated and focused this fall.

“I feel it’s a good thing knowing there’s a guy that works just as hard as I do,” Lindberg said. “It pushes me every day.”

Both goalies had eventful summers since last season ended with the 3-0 loss in the national championship game. Lindberg was drafted in the seventh round by the Minnesota Wild in June then attended the team’s annual developmental camp later that month. Meanwhile, Murray received an invitation to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ developmental camp that same weekend.

And while the competition has ramped up on the ice between the two with the opener looming, the friendship and respect between the goalies is still strong. Murray said it isn’t that much of a challenge to compartmentalize it all because of how well the two get along off the ice and fit into the overall team chemistry.

“We do a very good job separating our friendship from the competition,” Murray said. “Off the ice, we’re great friends and on the ice, we’re great friends. I think the world of Fille, but it just comes to at the end of the day, I want to play, I want to be that guy and I’m going to do what I can to be that person.”

The opening week of the season for UMass is a bit unorthodox thanks to some quirky Hockey East scheduling. The Minutemen only have one game this week – Friday at 7 p.m. against Rensselaer – before jumping straight into their first conference game next Tuesday at Northeastern. That means there isn’t the option for the Minutemen to do a casual split of a weekend series like they did for much of the beginning half of last year.

DeMichiel said whoever ends up starting for UMass on Friday and beyond will have benefited greatly from having the other competitor beside them the whole way. But it will also help the fourth-ranked Minutemen improve to have the goalies be that much better than they were last season.

“They probably don’t even know it, but I think it’s going to be the best thing for them,” DeMichiel said. “Seeing how much they’ve improved, not just physically but mentally, how they’re engaged to start practice. ... It makes our jobs as coaches more difficult when they’re both playing at an extremely high level, but for the team, it’s the best thing for us. We want to win hockey games, and if the goalies are stopping the puck, that usually leads to winning some hockey games.”

Josh Walfish can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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