GLENDALE – Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy is assembling quite the collection of medals from international tournaments by playing for USA Hockey.
Murphy recently added a bronze medal to his mix after he and his American teammates defeated Czech Republic, 3-0, in the consolation game of the 2015 IIHF World Championship last wekend. The victory was an impressive one considering the game was played in Prague where the overwhelming majority of the 17,000-plus spectators were cheering for the Czechs.
|Connor Murphy. Photo by Getty Images. |
"That game was definitely one of the highlights," Murphy said. "I’ve never played in the NHL playoffs but the atmosphere in that arena for that game is what I imagine the NHL playoffs are like. The building was big and it was packed and loud, and the fans were very, very energetic. It was really fun to play in front of that."
Team USA, which was a young team, turned many heads by placing third in the annual 16-nation tournament. The Americans won six of seven games in the Preliminary Round to capture the Group B title ahead of Russia and Finland. After beating Switzerland, 3-1, in the quarterfinals, Team USA lost to Russia, 4-0, in the semifinals to set up the challenging Bronze Medal Game against the host nation.
"We were pleasantly surprised (to win the bronze)," Murphy said. "Not many people gave us a chance. Everyone seemed to think we were just this really young team thrown together with a bunch of college guys and that we wouldn’t go very far, but I think we surprised a lot of people. It was disappointing that we didn’t win the gold medal, but it was still great to go home with something."
Murphy played in all 10 of Team USA’s games and averaged 16 minutes of ice time per game. Partnered primarily with Coyotes defenseman John Moore, Murphy’s role was a defensive one and he spent a lot of time killing penalties.
"I got the chance to play a lot with John," Murphy said. "We have good chemistry and get along really well. That made it a lot more fun. Overall I’m happy with the way I played and the way we played together."
Murphy, 22, is a USA Hockey veteran. He played for Team USA at this event a year ago, and in 2013 he won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Championship. Before that he won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2011 U18 World Junior Championship.
|Connor Murphy, John Moore and Mark Arcobello after winning bronze medals with Team USA at the 2015 IIHF World Championship. |
Beyond winning medals, Murphy said he values the experiences that accompany playing in international events. This time around he spent some free time exploring historic Prague, and he and his teammates toured the Auschwitz concentration camp memorial in neighboring Poland.
"It’s a very surreal place," Murphy said. "It’s eerie and really sad, and you leave there with a very depressed feeling. But I think being able to see it and learn about what happened there is important."
Team USA played its first eight games of the tournament in Ostrava, an industrial Czech Republic city with lots of factories. Murphy and his teammates - including Moore, Mark Arcobello and Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel – then traveled to Prague from Ostrava for the final two games via a memorable three-hour ride aboard a Pendolino train. Some players read during the journey while others played cards or watched movies. Murphy said he and his teammates also enjoyed just looking out the window.
"That was cool," Murphy said. "I’d never ridden on a train before. The best part was it was very scenic. There is so much beautiful countryside in between the towns and the train goes right through it. It was a lot of fun and something I’ll always remember."
Murphy returned home to Columbus, Ohio, on Monday. After having his wisdom teeth removed, he plans to spend the next few weeks there, taking it easy, before returning to Arizona in mid-June to start workouts for next season.