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Forward Abbey Murphy's all-around game — in more ways than one — has taken her from Evergreen Park, Ill., through the Gophers women's hockey program and, currently, with the United States team that is preparing for the Beijing Olympics.

"Murph's a player who brings a tremendous amount of speed and skill to the game," Team USA coach Joel Johnson said. "When she's got the puck, she's a dynamic player, she's deceptive. She can create offense for herself, which is not always common. She's a young player, so she's still learning how to play without the puck and playing an honest game."

She also likes to keep the other team honest.

Team USA on Monday will face Canada in the seventh game of the nine-game My Why Tour as the two rivals prepare for the Olympics. And Murphy has let Team Canada know she's watching them throughout the tour. In addition to her offensive capabilities — she scored 18 points in 20 games with the Gophers last season before taking this season off from college hockey — she has shown little tolerance for opponents who give her teammates the business.

Consequently, the USA-Canada hockey rivalry continues to percolate through a few scrums, and an expected crowd of more than 10,000 will get to see for themselves at Xcel Energy Center on Monday.

It will be the first game between the teams since Friday in St. Louis, when Murphy came to the rescue of fellow forward Dani Cameranesi and triggered one of the more spirited skirmishes of the series.

At the 3 minute, 6 second mark of the second period, Cameranesi was crosschecked into the boards by Canada's Claire Thompson ... with no whistle from the referee.

"I've been keeping my composure pretty well, not getting rattled after some stuff," Murphy said, "but when that happens in front of my face, a teammate gets hit from behind into the boards, I can't watch that happen and not jump in and stick up for her.

"That's not a teammate, if I don't do anything."

Murphy crosschecked Thompson to the ice. Murphy then took a shot from Canada captain Marie-Phillip Poulin. Others joined in on the conflict. Murphy got her helmet pulled off as referees moved in and started handing out penalties. Murphy and Poulin, who has a similar edge, had words for each other from the penalty boxes.

Johnson agreed that Murphy falls into the same category as former Twins cage-rattler A,J. Pierzynski in that you want to play with her and not against her. And Johnson pointed out that the 19-year-old Murphy is as gritty as talented but never takes the grit side too far. Meanwhile, she has earned respect from her teammates.

"That's what she brings every day," U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield said, "She loves this game. She'll have her teammates backs. She wants to win. She competes hard and, how you see her compete against Canada, against anybody, that's how she competes in practice."

Abbey Murphy is away from her college team, the Gophers, this season play for Team USA.
Abbey Murphy is away from her college team, the Gophers, this season play for Team USA.

David Joles, Star Tribune

Coyne Schofield is from Palos Heights, Ill., about 15 minutes from where Murphy grew up, and remembers seeing Murphy on a U12 team full of energy and loving the game. Murphy started playing hockey at age 7. By 9, her competitive traits began to form. She had two older brothers: Patrick played football at Carthage College, while Dominic is a wrestler at St. Cloud State.

"We tossed each other around quite a bit when we were younger," Abbey Murphy said.

They ever gang up on you? "When I was being a little brat, yeah," she said, "but I would get them back."

Murphy was a highly touted recruit, earning preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year honors. Then she was twice named rookie of the week. She misses her Gophers teammates but is having the time of her life with Team USA.

On Monday, she will have family and friends in attendance at the X as she creates — and protects — for her teammates.

"It's a nice little short drive for my family," Murphy said. "It will be nice. We don't have many games close to home, so it will be really special. And to be able to play on Minnesota ground is awesome."