When Abbey Murphy first started playing hockey when she was 6 years old, it was a case of a young athlete quickly falling in love with a sport.

Murphy loved the competitiveness, the action and meeting new people. But as a kid, she never knew how far the game would take her.

Now a junior at Mother McAuley, Murphy recently helped lead the U.S. U-18 team to a silver medal at the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championships Jan. 6-13 in Obihiro, Japan.

“Once I kept playing as a kid and made it to [her club team, the Chicago Mission], everyone asked me ‘Do you want to play big hockey?’” Murphy said. “I said ‘I’d love to.’ It was an unbelievable experience. I love playing the game and meeting all types of girls.”

It wasn’t Murphy’s first Team USA experience after the Evergreen Park native helped the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2018 U-18 Women’s World Championship in Russia.

In Japan, Murphy picked up right where she left off, scoring 4 goals and dishing out an assist for Team USA during its 5 games.

The U.S. lost 3-2 in overtime to Canada on Jan. 13 in the title game.

“It’s my second year, but I was nervous. It’s the gold-medal game,” Murphy said. “The younger girls had some jitters, but we chilled the nerves in the first period. We came out stronger in the second period. It was a tough loss.”

A 5’4” forward with speed and power, Murphy scored a goal in the championship, but her best game came in the preliminaries, a 3-2 comeback win over Canada.

With the U.S. trailing in the second period, Dominque Petrie scored the team’s first goal. Just 14 seconds later, Murphy tallied the equalizer.

She knocked in the game-winner in the third period on a Casey O’Brien assist, blasting the puck past the Canadian goalie.

“Dom’s goal gave us that boost of confidence, that ‘Let’s go!’ feeling,” Murphy said. “The celebration after the winner, oh my god, it was nuts. A lot of fun, everyone jumps on you. That’s the best feeling.”

Murphy was named the USA Player of the Game for her comeback heroics.

For the graduate of Most Holy Redeemer Elementary School, her second experience with the U.S. team was a big change of pace.

In Russia, Murphy was the youngest player on her team by far. In Japan, she was right in the middle. With her additional experience, Murphy tried to help her younger teammates.

“Those 2 goals against Canada, that’s probably the happiest day of my life,” Murphy said. “It gave me a lot of confidence to help the other girls and prove they can score, too. Everyone can do it. Especially being a leader this year and not being so young, I tried to step it up a notch.”

With individual accolades piling up, Murphy still prefers to tout the team’s success above her own, according to Meg Gardner, a dean of students at Mother McAuley.

“Abbey e-mailed me to check in. The team was being good to her; they had 2 big wins,” Gardner said. “It was only later that I looked and saw she had 2 goals that night. She never said a word about it. She’s everything we want in a McAuley girl: hard worker, gritty and always puts others first.”

Now back for second semester at McAuley, Murphy has also returned to the Chicago Mission roster and is preparing for nationals in April in Anaheim, Calif.

More hockey experience at the international level is definitely in the cards as she follows in the footsteps of her sports idols, Team USA members Kendall Coyne and Megan Bozek.

Murphy, a University of Minnesota recruit, said she’s ready for the next stage of her hockey career.

“This is just the beginning,” Murphy said. “I want to go to college, have a good season at Minnesota and hopefully try out for the U-22 team. That would be a huge boost.”