The goaltender of Loko Yaroslavl started as a defenseman, and is now practicing with the KHL team and Rashit Davydov.
Sergei Murashov is a Yaroslavl trainee. The goaltender spent the 2021/2022 season with Loko-76, a new team that joined the JHL and played in the Eastern Conference. Sergei played 41 regular season games and helped the Yaroslavl team clinch a playoff berth. He also played two games for Loko, and they both were playoff games against a powerhouse team, Krasnaya Armiya. In the 2022/2023 season, Murashov will push for the position of Loko's starting goalie. During the preseason, the netminder took part in the KHL team’s training camp. Working with Lokomotiv, where the experienced coach Rashit Davydov is in charge of goalies, helped Sergei make progress and move to a new level.
In an interview with the JHL website, the player talked about practicing with the KHL team, junior-to-senior transition, the 2021/2022 season and reasons for moving from playing defense to playing goal.
– How is your preseason going?
– Great. I am practicing with the main team. We are getting ready for the season. First only goalies skated with coach Rashit Abdulkhakovich Davydov. Then the rest of the team joined us. The training camp is going well. I’ve learned many useful things, improved different skills.
– How do goaltenders train during preseason?
– We are having goaltending practices. First, we practice basic skating, goaltending skating and stickhandling. Then we move on to simple shots to get a feel for the puck and prepare for advanced drills. We practice game moments, improve goaltending skills. It is a work behind the scenes, but the overall result makes it evident - when the team wins and the goalie performs well.
– Did you quickly get into the training rhythm after the offseason?
– Yes, I started preparing by myself in June. I missed hockey. A month without it is a long period. Enough time to reset, to think about the latest season and the upcoming one. It’s always nice to be back with the team and enjoy the team atmosphere. The locker room is lively, there are positive moments on the ice. It's fun and I enjoy it.
– What aspects did you improve in the summertime?
– In summer, I trained with Anton Igorevich Shustov, the Loko-76 goalie coach. We had several ice practices. We started with basic skating, then moved on to goaltending skating: we practiced t-push, shuffle, slide. In short – crease-specific movements. As for working out in the gym, I paid special attention to explosive speed, so that the strides are more powerful, worked on reflexes, perception and reaction. After watching my games from the last season, I realized that I need to work on attention switch. I mean, controlling rebounds, when I need to quickly adjust my positioning after a rebound depending on where the puck is.
– Did you identify the areas of concern yourself, or did the coach help you?
– There were things I knew. I understood that I was a little late in adjusting my positioning. Some aspects were explained by the coach. We analyzed the 2021/2022 statistics and realized that many assisted goals were allowed when I had to quickly adjust my positioning. So, I decided to focus on this aspect.
– But aren’t those assisted goals mainly D-men’s fault?
– You can always say about any goal that it was someone else’s fault, not the goalie’s. I start with my own performance and analyze what I could have done better.
– You talk a lot about skating drills. There is a stereotype among fans that goalies are the worst skaters on the team. Explain why a goaltender must have perfect skating skills.
– Everything is simple. Goalies move within a confined space. The crease is one meter by two meters, and you must adjust your body to the scenario as quickly as possible. You are to choose the proper position taking into account every centimeter of the ice. With poor skating skills, proper positioning will not be possible. If you don’t have good basic skating skills, it will be harder to perform advanced elements. Therefore, skating requires constant attention.
– Are you satisfied with your performance for Lokomotiv in the preseason?
– First of all, I enjoy practicing with the main team. I am able to see the inside of how the team lives, to understand the nuances of preparing for practices, training regime, nutrition, rehab. It's interesting and useful. In any case, there are certain challenges I am facing. Coaches, Rashit Abdulhakovich in particular, help me to take a step forward. They give me some pointers to enable fast adjustment. There are difficulties, but, on the other hand, it would be strange if there weren’t any – joining the main team and doing great right away – it doesn't work that way. Doing simple and correct actions can bring you to a good result.
– Skaters name speed as the main difference between JHL and KHL. And what is it for a goalie?
– As for the speed, I agree, completely. Playing in the JHL, you get a little more time to make decisions. Some players hog the puck. In the KHL, they play tighter. Less time for forwards down low - less time for goalies. Being a little late can lead to an offensive opportunity and even a goal. You have to get used to timing. Players are more skillful, more experienced, they know more about how goalies play. You have to adjust so as not to be sent the wrong way.
– Are shots in the KHL much more powerful?
– They are faster and quicker. KHL players take quick release shots and need less time to settle the puck and shoot. There are guys in the JHL who shoot hard. But they often hold on too much time to prepare a shot, and it makes it easier to catch the puck. Everything is faster in the KHL – this is the main difficulty.
– Who is the trickiest shooter in Lokomotiv?
– Denis Alexeyev is a good shooter. His shots might not be that hard, but they are very accurate. Maxim Shalunov has a very accurate shot. Maxim Osipov’s shots are very powerful. All the guys are good shooters, each shot can be considered a high-danger one.
– Do you often get hit in an unprotected area?
– Collarbone and upper neck are unprotected areas. Sometimes I get hit in arms or ribs when they shoot from the side. I would not say that it happens often. Modern gear is designed to keep you safe when facing hard shots. You can get hurt only if the gear is not tight enough and creates an unprotected area. I’ve never got injured on shots. I think, it is no longer a modern hockey problem.
– Aren't you afraid of the puck?
– I am not. When you face a shot, there is no time to get scared. Everything comes gradually. Netminders develop in parallel with players’ shots. You get used to hard and powerful shots bit by bit, so there is no fear of the puck.
– Do you often have to defend against shots from along or behind the goal line? Some forwards try to outwit the goalie and score a deflection goal.
– It is a modern trend - to shoot from behind the goal line trying to get the puck deflected off the goalie. I allowed just few of such goals. Most often, they were scored after plays. When you think that the puck is behind the net and the play is over, but it happens to be not. Concentration and focus are important. It is must be understood that the puck going behind the net is still a threat. Only this will prevent from allowing such goals.
– And has anyone tried to score a lacrosse-style goal?
– Yes. I remember allowing a lacrosse-style goal in the game against Atlant during my first season in the JHL. It was my second or third game in the league. I replaced the starting goalie in the third period and allowed a lacrosse-style goal. It was so unexpected! In the 2021/2022 season, someone tried to score it too. Lacrosse move is another new trend, but there are ways to prevent it. Remember how Kirill Samsonov did not allow Matvei Michkov to score a lacrosse-style goal in the finals, but he failed to stop the second one. Goalies are looking for ways to deal with such moves. If players invented lacrosse move, then goalies will come up with anti-lacrosse move.
– Does allowing a lacrosse-style goal apply psychological pressure?
– You mean allowing a lacrosse-style goal and then seeing it posted on JHL social networks, right? (smiles) Well, actually there is no such thing. You allow it, and so what. Lacrosse doesn't count as ten goals, it's just one. You keep playing and don't think about it too much. You always have to stay focused. It is the same goal as any other. There are no additional rewards for it.
– You are one of the few JHL players who played in both conferences. What is the difference between hockey in the West and in the East?
– In the West, it is more systemic. Some teams play simple, dump the puck in. I would call this kind of hockey more mature when players are physically strong. In the East, they play a passing style of hockey. Teams try to get through the neutral zone by making passes.
– Was it helpful for the school when the second Yaroslavl team joined the JHL? What were your thoughts when Loko-76 became a JHL team?
– My first emotions were positive. JHL is stronger than NJHL. We had a busy and interesting season. It's much better for a club to have two teams in the JHL. Loko-76 allows players to adapt to a new level and move to Loko to pursue high level goals.
– Does the rotation between the teams somehow affect the relationship with teammates? Have you noticed any sidelong glances?
– No, everyone takes it in good sense. If a Loko player is sent to Loko-76, everyone is happy to see him on the team. All guys know one another. It’s always nice to see the guys again. There are no intrigues, everyone feels calm about competition.
– You played 41 regular season games in the 2021/2022 season. Is this the optimal load for a goaltender, or could you play more?
– I don't know if I could play more. I believe, crease-time must be well-deserved. I still had enough energy. I was able to play in the playoffs. The season with Loko-76 turned out to be intense. We travelled a lot in the East. The outcomes of games were different, it was the last game that decided whether we would make the playoffs or not.
– One of the coaches told me that he deliberately kept the young goalie as a backup so that he doesn’t overwork by the middle of the season. Didn’t you feel tired when there were long series of games?
– I didn't have long series of games. The longest one was when I played six games in a row. Yes, by the sixth game, you are not 100% mentally ready. It is harder to stay focused, and you get physically tired faster. But as a rule, I played about three games in a row, so I felt good. Proper recovery helped a lot. The head coach is smart with planning off-ice practices so that we recover faster. So, I had no problems due to burnout or fatigue.
– What aspects did you grow stronger in during the 2021/2022 season?
– First of all, I became more mentally resilient. I was taking allowed goals and defeats easier. I began to understand the game better. I had to adapt to the JHL level. I got the feeling of timing to make it easier to play. Playing skills were systematically improved: movement, stickhandling, interaction with teammates. These are the components that you need to develop throughout the entire career.
– You are to start the new season with Loko, correct?
– Yes, but it's still being discussed. There is no clear plan of who is on which team. For now, I am to start with Loko.
– How did you start playing hockey?
– In Yaroslavl, coaches visit kindergartens and select kids who want to try their hand at hockey. I was six years old when the coach came to us. We passed a couple of tests, played a bit. He talked to my parents and invited us to practice. We spent the first month working out in a gym, then we started skating. It is a common story for Yaroslavl, when coaches select kids in kindergartens.
– Do you remember what tests you had to perform?
– Standing long jump, running, one-on-one game. We were given two hoops, the task was to put the ball into the opponent's hoop. Coaches looked at kids’ agility.
– Were any of your groupmates invited too?
– Two more kids started with me, but they quit after a short time. I guess, they were not interested in hockey.
– You’ve mentioned that you started as a defenseman, but then moved to playing goal. What was so attractive about being a netminder?
– Yes, I played defense for two years. At the end of each practice, we played scrimmage games, and for some reason I was always rushing to the net. It was easier for me to defend down low than to try to take the puck away and score goals. The goalie coach came to watch one of our practices. He asked: "Who wants to be a goaltender?". I took a step forward. Then we performed some tests: stretching, jumping. I got the gear, I liked it. I did not want to move back to playing defense.
– You catch with your right hand, which is quite unusual. Does it somehow influence the game?
– Sometimes I have to adjust when the puck is behind the net. When a goalie stops the puck, there are standard signal words: “forward”, “back”. As a rule, “forward” means a forehand pass, and “back” means a backhand pass. Being right-handed, I do the opposite. It happened so that D-men asked me to make a forward pass and I sent the puck in a different direction. Apart from that, this is just my advantage. When a forward sees a goalie in front of him holding a trapper in his right hand, it can disorientate him. The same is true for right-handed players. There are fewer right-handed players than left-handed ones, so you adjust to them in a different way.
– Goalies are always in the center of attention. Are you used to it?
– You get used to it with the passing of time. We prepare for games differently. Perhaps that is why goalies are considered to be quite a different breed. We have to be mentally resilient and calm. Everything comes through games. First, you develop in school, then you move to the JHL, a more media league. I sometimes have to deal with hate, but it’s even funny. I do not dwell on it, and I don’t focus narrowly on compliments. Because the next day these same people may say something opposite. Criticism must be treated objectively. It is better to discuss everything with the coach than to read something on the Internet.
– You’ve said that goalies are considered to be quite a different breed. What are your oddities?
– I don’t think I have any. I might just be the calmest person on the team. If I am introduced to a stranger, I think he won’t say I am a goalie. Our preparation for games is different. We are to keep good balance on the ice. I know that some goalies do strange things, but this is more of a human factor. Any skater or coach can have some oddities.
– Since you are calm, you do not yell at defensemen, do you?
– I don’t. Why would I get distracted. What’s the point of yelling? Everyone makes mistakes, myself included. Just imagine them yelling back at me. What a funny farm on the ice it would be.
– What can put you out of temper during a game?
– I don’t even know. Sometimes opposing players try to get under my skin. They skate by and say things.
– What do they say?
– Ordinary stuff: “We are gonna score now.” Or when they score, they tell me: “go get it.” Those are some standard phrases. They’re trying to pique. In response, I just smile in their faces, it makes them feel weird right away. It's their own fault if they try to instigate.
– How do you prepare for games?
– I start with vision warmup, do ocular gymnastics. I do exercises for concentration and focus. Preparation for games includes exercises aimed at muscle activation and full body warm up. I juggle and perform wall toss. Being on the ice, I try to get the feel of the puck through easy shots. There’s nothing extraordinary about my preparation for games. All you need to do is activate all the systems that are involved during the game in order to be fully ready when the pick hits the ice.
– Did it happen so that you allowed many goals during a pregame skate and could not pull yourself together?
– It did. You stand and think: “Ok, that’s enough, stop it.” In fact, there is a misconception that if a goalie allows many goals during a pregame skate, he will do the same during the game. You don't really think about goals you allow before a game. It is more important to feel the moves and prepare for the game. It's okay if someone scores during a pregame skate.
– What things annoy you in hockey?
– Sometimes the tempo is ruined by frequent stops. I wish there were fewer of them. The fewer stops there are, the more fast-paced the game is. If the stops were eliminated, hockey would be perfectly wonderful.
– Now the JHL is testing the new three seconds rule. Do you understand why the players will be given a penalty?
– This rule also applies to goalies. We can't stand behind the net. It’s simple: if the player is obviously alone behind the net, the referee first prompts him to start moving. If he fails to do so, then he is given a penalty. Many tactical moments are built on a defenseman staying behind the net and forwards starting to skate to receive a pass. The attack is well-organized then. And now a defenseman is to make a pass when a forward is not yet ready to receive it. It adds some chaos. But we’ll see how it works in the season.