Minnesota State freshman goalie Kevin Murdock will return to the USHL next season after playing sparingly for Minnesota State last year. Murdock was a highly-touted recruit, but ended up third in the Mavericks' goalie rotation for much of the year. The writing has been on the wall for this move for a good five months, so I've had plenty of time to plan my rant about this, and hopefully enough time to work out all the profanity.
This gets a little long, so I'll put it after the jump.
Murdock started his last game for Minnesota State on November 21st and was buried on the bench for the rest of the season. Looking at his numbers, it's maybe not hard to see why: a 1-3-1 record, 3.46 GAA and .895 save percentage. But when you break down his performance by game, it doesn't look all that bad. Here's a look at the games Murdock started:
vs. Bowling Green: Win. 22 saves on 23 shots.A solid start against a weak team
at Minnesota-Duluth: Loss. 30 saves on 33 shots. A lot of saves, but got the loss thanks to three powerplay goals, including a late 5x3 goal.
vs. Wisconsin: Loss 24 saves on 29 shots. Murdock got pulled halfway through the game.
at Denver: Tie. 40 saves on 44 shots. That's a lot of saves against a very good team on the road.
at Alaska-Anchorage. Loss. 21 saves on 24 shots. Not a great start, and not helped by the fact his offense scored one goal in front of him.
Out of the five games he started, there's some pretty impressive starts in there, especially on the road at Duluth and Denver. Essentially what kills his stats is the nightmare against Wisconsin, where MSU was outshot 34-12 in the first two periods. The team in front of him described their effort as "embarrassing". Take out that game and his numbers rise to a respectable 2.75 GAA and .911 save percentage. Not amazing, but certainly just as good as the other options in goal.
That's not to say that Murdock should have been starting every game for the Mavericks. There may have been other issues that kept Murdock from playing more often. But when you add up all the factors of his talent, his fairly decent performance early in the year, lack of a superior option(playoff starter Phil Cook couldn't crack the 90% save percentage barrier against WCHA opponents), and the fact that MSU didn't really have anything to play for after the first of the year, there seems to be little reason to not at least give him a couple starts here and there.
It's interesting to compare Murdock with Mike Lee, who was also a freshman goalie competing for playing time at a WCHA school this year. Both goalies committed to their respective schools years in advance of going there, and had excellent numbers in their final year of junior hockey. Both goalies had the occasional rough outing, mixed among some very solid starts to start their college careers, and both goalies were occasionally plagued by the soft goal. That's understandable given that both were essentially true freshmen. The difference was that St. Cloud knew Lee was an immense talent and gave him every opportunity to work through his struggles, rather than going for the marginally better short-term solution of playing Dan Dunn full-time. The Huskies were rewarded when Lee got them to the Final Five championship and their first ever NCAA tournament win.
In the short term, losing Murdock may not hurt Minnesota State that much. He's leaving because he's third on the depth chart, after all. But having such a highly-recruited kid leave under circumstances like this doesn't necessarily reflect well on Minnesota State. The scholarship goalie they try to recruit may be a little wary of going to a place where the last guy got just a handful of starts before never seeing the ice again.