Clay Murray is back in the Airdrie Techmation Thunder’s lineup and the over-ager has made an immediate impact as the team looks to maintain dominance in the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL).
After being forced to sit out the first three games of the 2017-18 HJHL season due to a suspension he received in the Thunder’s final playoff game in February, the 21-year old is back with the team and ready to help lead it to an HJHL title.
“Things are feeling good. I was eager to get back into the lineup. I wasn’t a fan of watching, that’s for sure,” Murray said. “Right after I got off my suspension, I got off to a quick start.
“Getting the points is nice but at the end of the day it’s whether we win, that’s what I care about.”
Since returning to the lineup the forward has been on an absolute tear, scoring 16 points (11g, 5a) in just five games, catapulting him to the top of his team in point totals and just a single point back of Red Deer Vipers forward Mack Differenz with the league lead.
Although he said it is nice to be putting up the points he has in the early stages of the season, Murray also wants to contribute to the team in anyway he can and is entirely focused on winning Airdrie its first HJHL Championship since the 1999-2000 season.
“It would be unbelievable if we were to win the championship in my last year,” Murray said. “That is the only thing I would like (out of this season).”
Even though the Airdronian said he is willing to play any role for the team, he admits he is contributing most when he’s putting points on the board.
In his tenure with the Thunder, Murray has been a point-per-game player - including in his first full season in 2015-16 where he potted 80 points (50g, 30a) in 38 games and won the league scoring title.
Murray followed up that scoring pace with 77 points (44g, 33a) in his second season and finished tied for fourth in the league-scoring race.
The forward looks like he’ll be in the thick of the race in his final year with the team, averaging 3.2 points per game so far.
Murray said he had always intended to return to the Thunder for his 21-year-old season, especially after the Thunder suffered its Northern Division semi-final exit at the hands of Red Deer last season.
In his return, Murray was named the team’s captain for 2017-18 and has taken the honour that comes with it very seriously.
“I was very honoured to be named captain, I’m looking forward to leading the boys and hopefully winning a championship,” Murray said. “I’m more than capable of being a leadership guy. I was ready to be the captain.”
Murray added he gained some of the leadership skills from his previous Thunder captains Lukas Pollock and Parker Georgsen.
The Thunder currently has the best record in the HJHL sitting at 6-1-1, giving it 13 points and a three-point lead in the Northern Division.
The Thunder continues its season Oct. 20 when it plays host to the winless Three Hills Thrashers at Ron Ebbesen Arena. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m.