EDITOR’S NOTE: Coyotes prospect Connor Murphy this week returned from Russia after he and his Team USA teammates won the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. What follows is an edited transcript of an exclusive interview Murphy took part in with Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com.
Q: Describe your experience at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia?
A: “It was awesome. It was an amazing experience for me and everyone on our team and I think it was even more rewarding to be able, obviously, to get the gold medal and accomplish the one goal we had going in. It was just a long tournament. It’s a different experience being over there in Russia, different food (and) with the 11-hour time change and everything, but it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed doing it with the great group of teammates we had there and a great staff. I think it was key for us to be able to get better every game, and obviously it was a huge win for us, first beating Canada, and that gave us momentum to get the gold in the final game beating Sweden. Overall, it was an amazing trip.”
Q: What was the key to Team USA’s success?
A: “I think a few different things. I think first, everyone accepted the role they were put in. That was made clear to us by Coach (Phil) Housley and all the staff that everyone has to kind of toss their egos out the door right when we are put together on the team and be put into the positions that they want us to play in and different roles. I think special teams and goaltending were our two biggest things. It was clear to us that we had to be good at shutting down all the top players on each team. (There was) a lot of skill on the PK for us and that was huge that we were able to do that with the amazing help from our goalie John Gibson, who stood on his head for us the whole tournament and gave us a chance to win and made every save that he should have. And then on the other side we were great on the power play and guys really contributed on every line and in every position, scoring goals and making plays.”
Q: What was your role and how did you approach it?
A: “My role was to be kind of a shutdown guy that can be reliable and have a big impact on the penalty kill and things like that in my own end. I was really happy with it and obviously I give a lot of credit to my goalie. Even if I was to make mistakes he would bail me out. So, that was great to have him and that gave me a lot of confidence and I was happy with how I played overall, just trying to make it hard on other players and keep them from creating offense to help our offense. So, I’m real, real happy with that and I think everyone else is happy and really contributed in their roles to give us success.”
Q: What was it like spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve so far from your home in the U.S.?
A: “It was definitely a different experience. We were still able to have a little gift exchange with some teammates of ours, and it was fun to be able to do that and be with friends that I’ve known and played hockey with growing up. I also enjoyed being there for New Year’s Eve. The town completely shut down that night. I was up until about 3:30 listening to the fireworks. They were going off all night and even for days after that. It was great to see what their culture is like and how they treat all of their holidays and see the reaction of the people in the town. That’s something that I’ll never forget.”
Q: So, what’s next on your busy schedule?
A: “I’m planning on getting back right away to my team in Sarnia. Our team has been doing decent; actually, they’ve gotten a few wins since I’ve been out on break with a couple of other guys. So, we’re looking to get back and hold our high rating. We’re at second in the conference right now and just looking to get a good, strong push for the second half of the year here and getting into playoffs, which is the most fun part of the year for our team. I’m just hoping to improve every game and continue to go out and have fun and get things going in Sarnia.”
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