Photos Courtesy of Union College Athletics Department
By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
Former Jersey Hitmen goaltender Connor Murphy has gone country. Canadian country to be exact. Come this fall, he’ll be in the heart of one of the world’s rodeo capitals, in Calgary, Alberta, as he works to land a spot with the American Hockey League’s Calgary Wranglers.
The Wranglers are the AHL affiliate of, and thus the top development team for, the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
Following a four-year college career that saw him play regularly for first Northeastern University and then Union College, Murphy (a native of Glens Falls, N.Y.) signed with the Wranglers on a two-year contract on July 5.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround after finishing my season with Union. It was a matter of a couple days before I found I would sign an Amateur Tryout (ATO) for what I thought would be the rest of the season, but ended up being just three or four weeks,” said Murphy. “I went back to Union to finish my spring term and signed a two-year contract with Calgary. It’s a big accomplishment.”
Murphy appeared in 91 NCAA games, mostly between 2020 and 2023, and came out with 35 wins and a .909 save percentage. His best statistical season came in 2021-22 when he played in 37 games for Union, posting a 2.66 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. This past season, he served as a Captain for the Union Garnet Chargers, as well.
Prior to his years in the NCAA, he played in 16 games for the Jersey Hitmen in the inaugural 2017-18 season of the NCDC. He put up numbers similar to his year with Union four years later, with a 2.72 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Murphy’s two-year USPHL career started in 2016-17, splitting that season between the CP Dynamo in the USPHL 18U Division and the Springfield Pics of the USPHL Premier, which was at the time the top level of the USPHL.
“Obviously, my path was a little different in terms of how many teams I’ve played on, first in juniors and also transferring from NU to Union. It’s a little bit of an unrealistic path for some players,” Murphy said. “I’d made the jump from freshman year, not playing much at all, to my sophomore year at Northeastern where I started almost every game. I needed to adjust a few things in my game and also mentally to be able to play in that level. I can use that and remember how that situation felt, making that switch, now that I’m going into my pro career and trying to make that same transition.”
He’d already made a few big transitions prior. As aforementioned, he went from the 18U Division to the USPHL’s top junior level. While the NCDC was also the top junior level for the USPHL, there was the unknown transition of jumping into a brand new junior league in the hockey world. Being able to join an organization with a good history and strong infrastructure for more than 12 years already helped.
“The Hitmen were a well-known team already, so I had a pretty good idea of what they were about. They’d had a lot of success already, so obviously it was a chance to play for a winning teams,” said Murphy. “It was a really nice path I took and I’m happy with the decision I made.
“I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting when I went into the NCDC, being a completely different league. You had the USPHL Premier there before, so I was a little unsure of the pace of the game, but I was pleasantly surprised with how skilled the game was,” Murphy added. “A lot of players moved on to a very high level, so that is just a testament to how well the NCDC actually did.”
During his time with the Hitmen, Murphy remembers having a close relationship with then-goaltending coach George Bosak. Before joining the Hitmen, he had previously worked with Princeton University and Arizona State University. Bosak is currently the goaltending coach for Arcadia University.
“He was definitely the one I worked most closely with, two to three times per week, and we’d also work more before or after a practice,” he said. “I had a good relationship and was obviously able to talk with him about anything. He was always there to answer questions, and that really resonated with me.”
From the Hitmen, Murphy also went on to play Tier II Jr. A in Canada for one additional stop before heading to college hockey. He went from being the top starter to having to earn the few minutes he got as a freshman at Northeastern. It was that old adage, “nothing is given, everything is earned.”
“My college experience was great, I really can’t complain. That first year helped me learn that you need to prepare every day. Even if you’re not playing during games, you just have to have that mindset of being prepared because you never know when you’ll play. [2023 Hobey Baker Award winner] Devon Levi came in that next year as the expected starter, but he got injured so I ended up playing most of the games. So again, I was happy that I always worked in practices to be ready for a situation like that.”
Currently, the Wranglers’ goaltending depth chart shows Murphy joining alongside another recent NCAA grad, former Alaska-Fairbanks goaltender Matt Radomsky, as well as returning AHL goaltender Oscar Dansk, of Sweden. It’s going to be another battle for minutes – and perhaps even to make the AHL lineup, which generally carries just two goaltenders. So, Murphy is once again preparing for a new situation where nothing is given and everything is earned.
“There’s a couple different ways I’m trying to prepare for it. There’s the on-ice aspect. I worked with Mackenzie Skapski on a few things during the Calgary Flames Development Camp and I’m working with a goalie coach at home. Bryan McDonald, who was my Union goaltending coach as well, has been my coach since I started playing in goal around 10 years old. I’ve worked with him summers and throughout the season,” said Murphy. “I’m just trying to get quicker and stronger in the gym, work on that explosiveness and have stronger power to help me in games, and in terms of the overall speed on the ice. So we’re dialing in on a few technical details.”
He’s looking forward to his experience this fall at the team’s training camp and hopes he can earn his AHL spot and be able to move to Canada’s largest city west of Toronto. “It is a great city and I’m excited to move there. I’ve been there a couple times now” he added.
“First and foremost, the Wranglers have a great staff right now, and I’m very comfortable there with reaching out to them and they’ll answer any questions that I have,” said Murphy. “Along with Mackenzie, I’ll also get to work with the Flames’ goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet, who works with both the Flames and the Wranglers.”
The NCDC and USPHL congratulate Connor Murphy on signing his first pro contract and wish him the very best of luck in his pro hockey career!