Last year, Teddy Purcell led the prestigious United States Hockey League in assists with 52 in 55 games for the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) RoughRiders. He also had 19 goals.
As a freshman for the University of Maine men’s hockey team, he has taken on a new role this season: shooter.
Purcell enters tonight’s Hockey East opener against the University of Massachusetts with a team-leading five goals in five games and a three-game goal-scoring streak in which he has lit the goal lamp four times.
It certainly hasn’t hurt being on a line with senior center Michel Leveille and senior left wing Josh Soares, who were linemates last year.
“When you play with guys like Levs and Soares, they get you the puck in those high percentage areas,” said Purcell.
“When you come in as a younger player, you always want to make that perfect play and try to get the puck to the older guys as much as possible. But they’ve told me if I have a shot, take it. So I’ve been shooting and they’ve been going in,” added Purcell, who looks to shoot every time he gets the puck below the faceoff circles instead of thinking about passing the puck.
Purcell admits coaches throughout his career have told him he needs to shoot more and he spends spent a lot of time working on it.
He said he feels “very fortunate” to be on a line with the two veterans and said they complement each other well.
“I’m the same type of player as Levs, and Soares is great in the corners. He gets us the puck. He’s also established himself as somebody who scores a lot of goals. We work together well,” said Purcell.
Soares said Purcell came to Maine with the reputation of being a playmaker, “but we found out quickly that he can put the puck in the net. He has a great shot and a quick release. He’s really gifted. I’m glad he’s with us.”
Leveille said Purcell has “great hands. He’s a good guy to play with. He’s not the type of guy who gets frustrated. We’re having fun out there.”
Senior defenseman Mike Lundin said his sister, Melissa, observed at North Dakota last weekend that “it looked like the puck was glued to [Purcell’s] stick. His stickhandling is always right there.”
Purcell, a native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, said the adjustment to college hockey hasn’t been easy, especially when you find yourself playing your first game against national power Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Not only did he take a regular shift, he was also on the power-play and penalty-killing units.
“But it has gone better than I had expected,” said the 6-foot-3, 177-pound Purcell. “I just hope to keep it going.”
The 21-year-old Purcell said penalty killing is something he had never done previously, so he spends “a lot of extra time watching videotape to make sure I have my stick in the right lane and I’m in the right position on the ice.”
He also spends considerable time with volunteer coach Grant Standbrook “working on little skills like skating on your edges and getting a quick release on one-timers. You can never be good enough. Everything helps your game.”