Photo by Jeff Vorva
Mother McAuley's Abbey Murphy received a golf cart parade at her school after winning a gold medal.
So, last Thursday a small group of reporters was talking to a sophomore high school hockey player.
She said “I’m focusing on my club team right now – we’re hoping to win a national championship in March.’’
Probably 999 times out of 1,000 I don’t think there is anything odd about a statement like that. Talented players on talented teams shoot for national championships. That happens in all sports.
But what seemed intriguing to me is when and where this statement was said.
Evergreen Park’s Abbey Murphy, a sophomore at Mother McAuley High School, had just been honored by her school with a golf cart parade down the hallways of the Chicago school and was sporting a shiny gold medal after coming home from Russia a champion. Murphy, 15, was a member of the USA U18 team that won the gold in the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships in Dmitrov earlier this month.
She just played against some of the best 16, 17 and 18 year olds in the world and now she’s is getting geeked up playing for the Chicago Mission and hopes to qualify for what seems to me to be a little ol’ national championship after what she’s been through.
Not many players get to go to nationals and have it be a step down in competition.
But, then again, not many players get to the level Murphy has gotten to.
She’s just 15. Playing against 18 year olds. From other nations. And scoring goals.
She has already committed to a powerhouse hockey college – Minnesota. She got that out of the way last year as a freshman.
And she doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet.
Let’s not put her in the 2022 Olympics yet, but that is one of her long-term goals. She said she would love to be able to be teammates with Palos Heights’ Kendall Coyne, who will playing in her second Olympics in February.
But Murphy is taking things “step-by-step” and the road to nationals is her next mission with the Mission. After that, she is weighing playing lacrosse for the Mighty Macs this spring in the historic first year the Illinois High Association sanctioned the sport.
Let’s go back to Russia.
Murphy said this was her first taste of international competition and she is not a big fan of plane rides.
After a nine-hour plane ride, the team settled in and on Jan. 6, it played Sweden. Murphy scored a goal in regulation and the USA sweated out a 2-1 overtime victory. The next day, the team faced host Russia and won 5-3 but she did not score.
On Jan. 9, the team roughed up rival Canada, 6-2, and Murphy scored a late goal. Three days later, the USA beat Canada 4-3 in a shootout in the semifinals to set up a rematch with Sweden for the gold.
Murphy scored her third and fourth goals in the tournament and added an assist in a surprisingly easy 9-3 victory.
“As you get further into the tournament, you become more of a family,” Murphy said. “Our final day was our best day and we played our best game.’’
The 5-foot-4, 125-pound Murphy said she wasn’t intimidated by the older players.
“Some of those girls are huge,’’ she said. “But you have to compete at your best. You go out and play and hope you can play better than them.’’
Murphy said the whole experience was a “blast.”
“It’s an honor to represent your country and to have all of those teammates at your side while you are doing it,” she said. “And it’s an honor to represent all of the players that have done it before you.’’