Once again, Jimmy Murray (St. Cloud State) found a way to terrorize his old team, scoring a goal and two assists helping Omaha beat Fargo 4-1 on Friday night.
Once again, it was brought up: How did the Force let a player like Murray leave and have him turn into one of the league’s best players? Murray and Force assistant Byron Pool said it was a mutual decision for him to leave.
“I just think this year I’ve gotten more of a chance and play a lot bigger role on this team,” Murray said after the game.
Murray said getting more opportunities is why he wanted to leave Fargo. Murray opened last season with the Force and played in 33 games but felt he wasn’t in the right situation to showcase what he could do.
It led to him being traded last season at the USHL Trade Deadline to the North American Hockey League. He was still the Force’s property but when the USHL Entry Draft came around, he was traded to Omaha for the rights of A.J. Reid (Army).
Reid, however, is no longer with the team, while Murray has 11 points in seven games against the Force.
“Yeah, I think its unfortunate maybe,” he said about the trade. “Last year was a tough year for me but the coach here (Jason Herter) last year knew I didn’t want to come back. I did, but Omaha called me and put an opportunity in front of me playing big minutes and being the No. 1 or No. 2 center and I figured it was too good of a shot to pass up.”
Murray, who has 53 points in 45 games, showed what he could do Friday night when he used his speed to race end-to-end on the penalty kill, scoring the game’s first goal. Murray then used his vision and balance by feeding a pass as he was falling down to set up the game’s second goal. He struck again late in the third setting up a power play goal on a 5-on-3.
There was more. Murray was on 1-on-2 and used a toe drag to beat shutdown defenseman Justin Wade (Notre Dame) in a way no one has done all season to the 6-2, 210 pound physical blueliner.
Pool, who is in his second year with the Force, said there a lot of things that came into play when it came to Murray.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think he would be the player he is if he had stayed here,” Pool said. “I think there was some holes in his game. He didn’t take his conditioning seriously and there were times where his attitude wasn’t always great. When he got sent to Texas (NAHL), he realized how much he wanted to be in this league. I love the kid. I loved having him around the rink but I think it’s the kind of situation where it needed to happen for the player to become the player he is today.”
Pool added trading Murray might draw the ire of fans who wondered how the organization could trade away a player who is the league’s assists king and the USHL’s third-leading scorer.
He said sometimes trades can happen when a player feels they could be better off somewhere else.
Pool used former Force forward Joe Rehkamp and defenseman Brandon Carlson as examples. He said Rehkamp (now at St. Cloud State) told the coaching staff he believed he was a Top-6 forward and was told he wouldn’t be guaranteed Top-6 ice time.
Rehkamp was traded to Waterloo and played well enough for St. Cloud State to bring him in mid-year to resolve an injury crisis.
Carlson was traded to Fairbanks (NAHL) last season and, like Murray, the Force held onto his rights. Carlson helped Fairbanks win the league championship and told the Force he wanted to play a similar role on a USHL level leading towards him going to Lincoln, where he’s helped the team establish itself as one of the best in the Western Conference.
“There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes people don’t know about,” Pool said. “Would we like to have those three? Yeah, but sometimes things don’t work out but there have been times where it has gone the other way. You win some, you lose some when it comes to player movement.”