Former Alaska head coach Rob Murray has been named the new head coach and director of hockey operations for the Tulsa Oilers. He replaces Jason Christie, who decided after two seasons with the Oilers, to not return next season. The Oilers missed the ECHL playoffs both seasons under Christie.
Murray, 50, has a long history of success as a player and coach. He recently completed his sixth season as head coach of the ECHL’s Alaska Aces, who ceased operations in April. Murray led Alaska to three consecutive Brabham Cups with the best regular season record in the ECHL from 2011-12 to 2013-14. The Aces captured the Kelly Cup Championship in 2014.
“I’m very excited to be the next head coach of the Tulsa Oilers,” Murray said in a statement last week. “I like my teams to play a high-tempo, energetic, physical, disciplined game. If we can bring that to Tulsa, with a winning atmosphere and a winning mentality, we’ll have a great season.”
Murray spent 16 years as a player in the AHL and NHL. He was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the third round (No. 61 overall) of the 1985 NHL Entry Draft. Murray played in 107 NHL games, spread out over eight seasons, with the Capitals (1989-91), Winnipeg Jets (1991-96), and Phoenix Coyotes (1998-99). His NHL stats include four goals, 15 assists, and 111 penalty minutes.
The Toronto native began his coaching career as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Providence Bruins, in 2003, and was named head coach of Providence in 2008, prior to joining Alaska as the head coach in 2011.
In 431 games as an ECHL head coach, Murray has compiled a career record of 231-150-50. His teams have finished with winning records in five of six seasons, including three playoff appearances and one Kelly Cup title. Alaska did not make the playoffs the past three seasons.
“Rob is a proven winner who has had success in both the ECHL and AHL,” said Oilers general manager Taylor Hall. “We are thrilled to have him here in Tulsa and feel he will provide the necessary leadership to make us a playoff contender every year.”
The Oilers will open the 2017-18 ECHL season at home against the Kansas City Mavericks, on Oct. 13.
WHATLEY A FINALIST
ORU catcher Matt Whatley was selected as one of three finalists for the prestigious 2017 Johnny Bench Award presented by BaseballSavings.com. He becomes the first finalist from ORU since the award’s inception in 2000.
Whatley, a junior and three-year starter for the Golden Eagles, has thrown out 43 percent of potential base stealers this season behind a perfect fielding percentage in 507 chances, while starting all 59 games. The Claremore native has been just as good offensively, posting a .302 batting average with 11 home runs, 11 doubles and 49 RBIs. He also paced ORU with a .446 on-base percentage.
The annual award is presented to the collegiate catcher whose talent, toughness and integrity most closely resembles the legend after whom the award was named. A final vote among the national committee will take place during the College World Series and Whatley will be among the finalists invited to the 20th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 29, 2017, where the award will be presented.
ORU GOLFER HONORED
Oral Roberts’ Cody Burrows was named The Summit League Men’s Golfer of the Year following a vote of the head coaches. Burrows is the first ORU golfer to earn the Men’s Golfer of the Year award since Lyle Patton in 2004.
The sophomore led The Summit League with a 72.43 scoring average and was named first team all-league and to the all-tournament team. He placed third at the league championship with an even-par 216 (74-73-69). The Chickasha, Oklahoma, native totaled 11 rounds of par or better this season while earning a trio of top-five finishes and five in the top-10.