Hudson, Murdoch represent USA in Turkey


Photo: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Goalie Erik Hudson and a few of his teammates stop an attempted goal by a Lindenwood opponent during the match Friday, Dec. 3, at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena. The Cyclones fell to the Lions 4-2.

Dan Kassan

Eight hours time difference in a foreign country and being served fish with the head and eyes intact doesn’t sound like a dream getaway. But for ISU senior goaltender Erik Hudson, the trip meant much more than bizarre cuisine. It meant he would represent his country on a worldwide stage.

Hudson joined coach Al Murdoch and traveled to Erzurum, Turkey, for the World University Games, a showcase of some of the best college athletes from around the world. Hudson was named the starting goaltender for Team USA, and Murdoch was general manager.

“It was an honor,” Hudson said. “It gave us a lot of motivation during the game, you know, playing for each other and playing in an international country we’re not used to being in.”

Team USA included players Hudson is used to seeing, such as a couple players from rival Lindenwood University. Team USA played a few exhibition games before departing for Turkey and beginning the tournament.

In the preliminary round, a 7-3 victory over Slovakia on Jan. 30 avenged an opening-game shutout to Kazakhstan two days earlier. Team USA finished the preliminary round with a win over Spain. Murdoch acknowledged the level of competition.

“There was no fear on the part of any USA hockey player,” said Murdoch. “I think in the past they were maybe a little bit in awe. Now the players on Team USA know we’re as good as any team in the world and if we just played to the best of our ability, everything else would take care of itself.”

Murdoch stayed in the arena most of the day, watching his team and other teams practice, as well as the games itself. As general manager, Murdoch made sure the coaches had everything necessary, as well as providing accommodations and meals for the team. Erzurum rests more than a mile above sea level, so Murdoch also had to make sure players like Hudson adjusted properly to the thinner air.

“It’s harder to breathe out on the ice,” Hudson said. “We adjusted pretty quickly. We got there Tuesday or Wednesday, and by Friday we were ready to go. It was definitely an interesting experience.”

In the quarterfinals, Team USA and Belarus were tied 3-3 after two periods. But Belarus scored three unanswered to put away the Americans. That put Team USA into a battle with Japan in the classification round Feb. 4. Team USA had never beaten Japan at the World University Games. Hudson stood between the pipes as the boys in red, white and blue in front of him gutted out a 5-3 victory for Team USA, with Hudson stopping 36 of 39 shots.

“I think I played one of my best games all season,” Hudson said. “Japan was a good team. They were fast, one of the fastest teams I’ve ever seen in my life and it was a good time. I thought I played pretty well but obviously I had a pretty good team in front of me to help me and support me.”

Murdoch described the game as his best memory of the whole tournament.

“[Hudson] was the big reason we won that game,” Murdoch said. “They’re becoming a world power in hockey. They played exceptionally well and I was really proud of Erik Hudson beating Japan for the first time. There are certain goals that you want to achieve, sort of a bucket list type of thing — that was one of them.”

The victory over Japan assured Team USA of its best finish ever at the Games. They ended their run in the fifth-place game with a tough 4-3 defeat at the hands of Slovakia. It’s a sixth-place finish for a team not expected to finish higher than the 2009 ninth-place team.

“Hudson played really well. I thought he was one of the best goaltenders of the tournament,” Murdoch said. “I was real proud of Team USA. I’ve been doing this since 2001, and every year Team USA has gotten better.”

Twelve countries sent hockey teams to the tournament, including powerhouses like Russia and Canada, as well as lesser-known teams like the host, Turkey. The athletes stayed in a designated village, much like the Olympics. From the Opening Ceremonies in a 40,000-seat stadium to the diversity of the athlete’s village, Hudson tried his hardest to soak it all in.

“It really hit me when I realized how many countries were there and how we can all get together for a hockey tournament,” Hudson said. “It was an honor. Two and a half weeks went by super fast. I would give up, I would sacrifice a lot to do it again and hope I get to.”

As for the fish glaring off the plate?

“That kinda threw me off, because they were looking right at me,” Hudson said. “It broadened my horizon, as far as cultural diversity. I guess you could say that.”