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Rinkytown blog: Abbey Murphy's growth with Team USA is exciting for Gopher women's future

Members of the Minnesota Gophers women's team can't help but smile when they see what once and future teammate Abbey Murphy is doing for Team USA. Also, another Gophers summer hockey camp option, and Carl Fish's emergence is getting noticed.

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Team USA's Abbey Murphy (37) pats teammate Alex Carpenter (25) after practice Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at te Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

MINNEAPOLIS – Late nights and early mornings are pretty typical in the life of a college student. But if members of Brad Frost’s Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team have been up before dawn or wide awake after midnight lately, it is not for study sessions or late night carousing.

There are eight former or future Gophers skating for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, as well as a future Gopher playing for Finland another playing for Sweden. With most games starting at either 7 a.m. or 10 p.m. locally, it is never too early, or too late, for hockey.

While six of the Gophers in red, white and blue are alumni, two of them – forwards Grace Zumwinkle and Abbey Murphy – can and likely will return to campus to play for the U of M next season. Frost has liked what he has seen from both so far, and raves at the experience that Murphy, who was a Gophers freshman last season, is getting versus international competition.

“It’s exciting. I thought she was one of the best players on the ice last night for either team,” Frost said the morning after Team USA’s come-from-ahead 4-2 loss to Team Canada in the prelims.

Murphy, who hails from suburban Chicago, already has a collection of gold and silver medals from international tournaments before she got to Minneapolis. In her one season with the Gophers, she was second (to Zumwinkle) in scoring and led all WCHA rookies offensively.

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“So fast, always on the puck. She’s playing appropriately aggressive, which is what she has to do to be effective. She has to go to the line but not cross it, and she’s been doing a really nice job of that throughout the Olympics,” said Frost, who has dealt with what he calls a “big on-ice personality” from Murphy since she got to Ridder Arena. “She’s a South Side Chicago kid, and they deal with things differently there. Somebody looks at you cross-eyed, you punch them in the face.”

For the current Gophers players, losing a few hours of sleep here and there is a fair trade to get to see friends chase their Olympic dreams.

It’s exciting. I thought she was one of the best players on the ice last night for either team.
Brad Frost

“You’ve got to sacrifice to watch some of the best hockey in the world, and it happens once every four years, so why not,” said Gophers forward Taylor Heise, who has been named the WCHA’s forward of the month twice this season, most recently in January. “It’s awesome seeing their hard work pay off. Obviously with Murphy, knowing her for a year and getting to know her personality, it’s fun to see her out there, using her big body to an advantage.”

The Americans’ next game, in the tournament’s quarterfinals, will be at 10 p.m. CT on Friday versus Czechia.

Knies joins the summer camp craze

If you are looking to send your son or daughter to a hockey camp run by a Gopher next summer, you now have a choice between hot and muggy, or really hot and dry. After the success Gophers co-captain Sammy Walker had in the summer of 2021 running a multi-day camp for kids in Richfield, there is another Gopher bringing summer hockey camps to the desert.

Before he left to play for Team USA in Beijing, Gophers freshman forward Matthew Knies announced the first Knies & Doan Hockey Academy , which will be held June 27-30, 2022, at the Coyotes Community Ice Center in Mesa, Arizona (where high temps in the triple digits are routine at that time of year).

Knies, from Phoenix, will run the camp with Arizona State freshman forward Josh Doan, who is the son of long-time NHLer Shane Doan. The Knies & Doan camp is open to players from mites to high school.

Minnesota Gophers forward Matthew Knies
Minnesota Gophers forward Matthew Knies battled for a loose puck with Seamus Casey (26) and Logan Cooley (18) from the U.S. National Under-18 Team during their exhibition game on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis.
Contributed / Brace Hemmelgarn / University of Minnesota Athletics

Before making the announcement, Knies picked Walker’s brain about what works and the challenges of running a kids’ camp.

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“It’s super cool that he’s able to do that down there. Honestly, I was like, ‘You’re going to love it. It’s super fun,’” said Walker, who will hold his second annual camp Aug. 8-12, 2022, at Richfield Ice Arena. The NCAA’s ruling that allowed current student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness allowed players like Walker and Knies to hold camps under their own names.

Fish honored by the Big Ten

With Knies, forward Ben Meyers and defenseman Brock Faber in Beijing skating for their country, Gophers coach Bob Motzko has made it clear that he wants and needs others to step up and carry the load.

Exhibit A is sophomore defenseman Carl Fish, who is known first and foremost for his size and ability to play a hard-nosed game. But in last weekend’s sweep of Michigan State, the St. Paul Johnson product also showed a knack for distributing the puck, putting up a trio of assists and earning the Big Ten’s Third Star of the Week honor.

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Minnesota Gophers defenseman Carl Fish and Michigan Wolverines forward Brendan Brisson battled for a loose puck in the first period of their game at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Harrison Barden / University of Minnesota Athletics

“That’s just him being able to string together some games, becoming more comfortable and confident out there,” said Gophers assistant coach Garrett Raboin, who works most closely with the team’s blueliners. “He’s a good player. It’s a surprise to no one but the way he’s gotten the points is by being strong, simple and predictable. We’re excited for him to get rewarded.”

Fish, who has played in 17 of the team’s 28 games, has five assists this season after recording a goal and two assists in a dozen games last season. The Gophers are 6-0-0 all times in games where Fish has recorded a point, and he has proven to be popular on and off the ice.

“We just see him getting better,” said Raboin, who recruited Fish while the now 22-year-old was skating for the Bismarck Bobcats in the NAHL. “We knew coming from Bismarck that he was a tremendous kid and leader. We’ve seen that and he’s so well-liked in the room. Now people are seeing that he has ability and can play and help us on the ice. That the most exciting part is that he’s getting an opportunity and he’s making the most of it.”

Prior to his stint in Bismarck, Fish was a two-year captain at Johnson, which notably sent another hard-nosed kid named Herb Brooks to the U of M in the 1950s.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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