Murray takes his game to Green Bay

Manitoba product latest BCHLer to leave for USHL


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Defenceman Owen Murray changed teams for the second time in five months Sunday, leaving the BCHL's Penticton Vees for a chance to play immediately with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/01/2021 (580 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Defenceman Owen Murray changed teams for the second time in five months Sunday, leaving the BCHL’s Penticton Vees for a chance to play immediately with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers.

The Vees have not played since Nov. 14 when the play was halted due to pandemic restrictions in B.C. with no firm restart date.

The Gamblers, meanwhile, are 11-3-0-2 and sit second in the USHL’s Eastern Division. The club’s next game is Friday night in Muskegon against the Lumberjacks.

“It was pretty hard leaving a really good group of guys in Penticton and made a lot of close friends there and learned a lot while I was out there but at the end of the day, you’ve gotta play hockey,” said Murray while in transit to Green Bay Sunday afternoon.

“Green Bay is going to offer that. The USHL has been running and that’s what I went with.”

In the off-season, the 5-10, 180-pounder from Decker, Man. requested a trade from the MJHL’s Portage Terriers to the BCHL, a league regarded as the most competitive junior A circuit in Canada. He started well in Penticton, scoring 12 points in 14 pre-season games to lead all BCHL blue-liners.

Those elite offensive skills helped the 18-year-old earn a NCAA scholarship from the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he is scheduled to enrol as a freshman this fall. Murray is a C-rated prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft.

Gamblers head coach and general manager Pat Mikesch pursued his services prior to Sunday’s transaction deadline and Murray felt he couldn’t resist the certainty of real game action. The USHL is going ahead with a 60-game regular season.

“It would be phenomenal to get 45 games in any year like this so can’t complain about that at all,” said Murray. “There are kids still sitting at home who haven’t played a game since March when everything shut down.”

At least two other Manitobans have transferred to USHL rosters recently: centre Carter Loney left the Salmon Arm Silverbacks to join the Sioux City Musketeers while defenceman Hudson Thornton opted to leave the Chilliwack Chiefs for the Fargo Force. The Chiefs have lost at least six regulars to the USHL in the past month.

The uncertainty over the lifting of restrictions in B.C. played a big part in Murray’s decision.

“They’re still expected to play at some point,” said Murray. “I believe the league released that they’re going to try for Feb. 8 now but I mean that’s three days after the next review of their policies and restrictions, so they can be revamped again and that pushes it back another month.”

In other news:

Defenceman Owen Murray leaving the BCHL’s Penticton Vees and its still-delayed season for a chance to play immediately with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers.

— Winnipeg Ice centre Conor Geekie, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 WHL Draft, had options to play elsewhere but has decided wait for the start of the WHL season.

Friday’s announcement from the WHL’s board of governors committing to a 24-game regular season helped to sway his decision. Geekie said he considered two offers from the USHL and two from the North American Hockey League. He played nine games with the MJHL’s Virden Oil Capitals while on loan from the Ice.

“I’m just gonna stay home and stay on this side of the border,” the 16-year-old Geekie said from his home in Strathclair. “I mean, Virden and Winnipeg have been great to me so I think it’s only fair I kind of hold out and stay with them for a while. It was never really a certain thing that I was going and it wasn’t like I was committed to a team or anything.”

Perry Bergson / The Brandon Sun
Winnipeg Ice centre Conor Geekie has committed to playing in the WHL this season.

— Seattle Thunderbirds sniper Conner Roulette, an A-rated prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft, also decided against pursuing a job in the USHL.

“I’m just kind of more focused on the WHL which is looking to a late February start,” said Roulette, a Winnipegger who played three games with the Selkirk Steelers while on loan from Seattle.

The 17-year-old left-winger had 19 goals in his rookie season with the Thunderbirds.

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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