By J.P. Hoornstra
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
ONTARIO, Calif. – Shaggy-haired and baby-faced, John Murray looks too young to be familiar with the fickle nature of professional hockey.
The 21-year-old Reign goaltender gives no indication that he’s lucky to be here, but he is. A glance at his statistics (fourth in the ECHL in goals-against average at 2.39, third in save percentage at 92.5) also reveals he has the skill to earn every start – which is important since he’s played every minute of the last seven games, going 6-1 in that stretch.
But if Kellen Briggs hadn’t suffered a groin injury in the Reign’s final preseason game on Oct. 12, Murray probably wouldn’t be here.
Reign coach Karl Taylor first signed Murray once the goalie failed to make the roster with the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose. The two were already familiar with each other – Murray played eight games for the ECHL Reading (Pa.) Royals under Taylor late last season.
Even before that, Murray’s father, Tom, helped former Royals player (and current assistant coach) Larry Courville run youth hockey camps near Reading. Taylor utilized that connection to offer Murray his first pro contract out of the Ontario (Canada) Hockey League.
“He was a high prospect, a high U.S. national prospect,” Taylor recalled. “He was chased at the end of last year, did well early on in Reading, then faded a little bit.”