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Both Murley, Albany Begin New Chapters

By Phil Janack

Schenectady Daily Gazette, October 14, 2006

ALBANY - Born and raised across the Hudson River in Troy, Matt Murley has always welcomed returning to the area to play pro hockey.

The hometown fans, however, didn't always make him feel welcome. Until this year, his only appearances came as an opponent.

"I remember one game I played here, somebody dumped popcorn on me when I was sitting in the penalty box," Murley said. "Now that I'm on the River Rats side, I don't think I'll have any enemies here anymore."

Murley will be in the lineup for the Albany River Rats in their regular-season home opener tonight at 7 against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Last weekend, the Rats (1-1) split their first two games, losing at Rochester, 6-0, before rallying in Lowell, 5-3. Albany has won eight of its 13 home openers, including two straight.

"It's going to be fun. I know my family and friends are looking forward to it," Murley said. "I'm hoping we come out and play like we can and get a big win."

A crowd approaching 7,000 is expected for Albany's first home game as an affiliate of the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes and its developmental partner, the Colorado Avalanche.

For each of their first 13 AHL seasons, the Rats were associated with the New Jersey Devils, whose top farm team is now in Lowell.

"It's been a lot of hard work for a number of months, and we're real excited to get it going," Albany president and CEO Garen Szablewski said. "We anticipate a real good home season this year."

"It's going to be an exciting brand of hockey for the fans to watch. I think as the season goes on, more and more of our old fans will come to recognize that, and we'll be able to bring back some others that have maybe been lukewarm the past few years. It's going to be a fun season."

No one is more anxious to drop the puck than Murley. The 26-yearold left wing signed with Colorado in July and was one of the last cuts of training camp, assigned to Albany three days before its opener. Since turning pro in 2002 after four standout seasons at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Murley has played six AHL games in Albany, all with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, scoring three goals and seven points.

His best game was his first, when he netted a goal 33 seconds into the first period and added three assists on Feb. 15, 2003. He also had a goal for Pittsburgh in an NHL preseason game Sept. 20, 2002.

"I've been fortunate to always done well in this building," Murley said. "I'm a little nervous because I'm sure people are expecting a lot from me, so that's a little pressure, but I know what I can do."

"I know that if I don't worry about that kind of stuff and just play, I'll be fine. I've been through it before, and I know what to do."

Albany coach-GM Tom Rowe is one of Murley's biggest supporters.

"Some guys come home and struggle because they can't handle the distractions," Rowe said, "but getting to know Matt this week at practice, I think he's going to be a guy that relishes being home and playing in front of his friends and family."

"His wallet will be a little lighter if he has to buy tickets every night, but he's going to be a real good addition for us."

Starting with Murley, players are conscious of the demands from a fan base that has been beaten down by seven straight losing seasons, and six in a row out of the playoffs.

"We know what this team's been through the last few years and we want to change that," he said. "The first game's real important, because we want to show these fans that it's a new team and it's going to be a completely different product on the ice than they're used to seeing. We're hoping to give them a good show so they keep coming back."

NOTEBOOK

A block party will be held outside the arena from 5:30-7 p.m.... The pregame ceremony will include indivdual player introductions and a new welcoming video to be played on the overhead scoreboard... Carolina president-GM Jim Rutherford and VP-assistant GM Jason Karmanos are both scheduled to attend....

The Stanley Cup will be on display in the concourse, starting at 6 p.m. and following the opening ceremony for the duration of the game.... This is the fourth time the most prized trophy in the history of team sports has come to Albany. The Devils won three titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003....

With the exception of Brad Isbister, Albany will use the same lineup as Saturday's win in Lowell, leaving Ryan Bayda, Derrick Walser and Jesse Boulerice to join Isbister as the team's veteran scratches.... Rookie Justin Peters will make his first pro start tonight in goal....

Captain Keith Aucoin is one goal shy of 100 for his AHL career.... LW Shane Willis needs three points for 200 in the AHL....

The Rats have not hosted Hamilton, once a freqent and bitter playoff rival, since Feb. 19, 2005.