Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Family support means a lot to members of the MacEwan Griffins women's hockey team.
But that term takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to Amanda Murray's relatives.
The Griffins forward has five brothers, two sisters and 14 nieces and nephews.
Needless to say, the cheering section that she can generate at the Downtown Community Arena is substantial.
"My parents (Sean and Michelle) come to every game and when my brothers come, they bring all their kids," said Murray. "My one brother has seven kids, so there's a lot of kids at the games.
"You see kids running around, they're most likely related to me," she added with a chuckle.
The Murray family had plenty of reasons to cheer last Sunday when she appeared to score the opening goal of the Griffins' 3-1 win over Red Deer College that punched their ticket to the ACAC final.
She fired a shot from the slot that ended up in under the bar and was announced as the goal scorer. The tally was later changed to Raven Beazer's after Murray revealed that her linemate tipped the shot into the cage.
"I shot, and I must have been the only one who saw, but her stick was to the side and she tipped it," said Murray. "I thought everyone else saw, but it was only me and her who knew she scored. When I had a penalty, I changed it."
It didn't really matter who scored it; the goal was essential in swinging the momentum MacEwan's way as they qualified for a third-straight ACAC final – a best-of-five affair that will start against the NAIT Ooks on Friday (7 p.m., NAIT Arena) and continue with Game 2 hosted by the Griffins on Saturday (6 p.m., DCA).
To say Murray's family has been into hockey is an understatement. Running down the list of her brothers' accomplishments: Jason played NCAA Div. III hockey in Minnesota, Jordan played in the Manitoba and Maritimes Junior Hockey Leagues, Ryan played in the MJHL, Mark played in the Capital Junior Hockey League in Edmonton and Brendan – the only sibling younger than her – currently plays Midget AAA for Maple Leaf Athletic Club.
As well, Murray's older sisters Michaela and Mercedes played hockey and soccer, respectively, at high levels.
"They'll call me after games and just tell me to keep going," she said. "Just growing up with them, it's where I get so competitive, I think – playing mini sticks."
Griffins head coach Lindsay McAlpine notices another aspect of Murray's character that comes from being one of nine siblings.
"The biggest thing is her coachability," she said. "Amanda shows up every single day very eager and willing to put the work in and is great at receiving feedback. She goes out there and makes a change the next shift.
"I don't know if that comes from watching her older siblings go through things or hearing stories from them or if it's an authority thing in the household when you're trying to wrangle (eight) kids, but Amanda, when we ask her to stick to a game plan, she sticks to a game plan."
Amanda Murray crashes the crease in front of NAIT goaltender Kaitlyn Slator during a game earlier this season (Matthew Jacula photo).
After growing up in the Edmonton Girls Hockey Association before playing Midget AAA with the Edmonton Pandas, Murray joined former teammate Morgan Casson with the Griffins last season.
"I knew Morgan loved playing on the Griffs, so I wanted to look at it," she said after being also contacted by McAlpine. "I've never been on a team where we've all bonded so much."
That chemistry helped her settle into the ACAC last season where she burst onto the scene as one of the top rookies, scoring nine goals (second on the Griffins).
"I've never been a huge goal scorer, but everything seemed to work my way," she said. "Just recently, it's kind of been coming back from that. It's been nice."
Offensively, 2018-19 started slowly for her, but she's recently picked up the pace. Murray closed the regular season with two goals in the Griffins' final three games before coming up big in the first round.
"To speak again to her being a big game player, she scored a couple of critical goals in both the semifinal and final series last season," noted McAlpine. "I'd say she started to make a push here in this second half, but you can really see her start to find her game.
"I think for her the biggest aspect of her game is finding her speed and she's got a great shot – probably one of the hardest releases on our team. Now she's actually finding the right spot on net."