Stronger defensive play will aid Purcell, Leveille

Posted Dec. 11, 2008, at 12:24 a.m.

ORONO, Maine — Last year, Teddy Purcell proved that he made the right decision to leave the University of Maine men’s hockey team after his freshman season in order to pursue a pro career with the Los Angeles Kings organization.

Not only did Purcell earn American Hockey League Rookie of the Year honors by collecting 25 goals and 58 assists in 67 games for the Manchester Monarchs, he was also chosen the AHL All-Star game’s Most Valuable Player and was called up by the Kings where he notched his first NHL goal to go with two assists in 10 games.

Purcell, who was the Hockey East Rookie of the Year two years ago, seemed a good bet to begin the season with the Kings.

However, there are some deficiencies in his game, so he returned to the Monarchs and is their leading scorer with nine goals and 10 assists in 23 games.

He didn’t figure in the scoring in the Monarchs’ shootout loss to the Portland Pirates at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena Tuesday night, but he had plenty of chances including one off a partial break-in after he accelerated impressively past a Pirate defenseman.

Purcell is taking things in stride as he tries to earn a return trip to Los Angeles.

“I’m just working hard and taking things day by day,” said Purcell. “I’ve got to win more battles for the puck.”

“Growing up, I didn’t have much competition, so I could get away with a lot of things [with talent],” Purcell added. “Things came easy in juniors and in college. But, in the pros, nothing comes easy. You have to move your feet all the time.”

Manchester coach and former Clarkson University coach Mark Morris said Purcell has tons of skill, but the Kings want him to “compete more [for pucks] and shore up his defensive game.”

“He sees the offensive side of the game, but they want him to become more consistent defensively,” said Morris. “[Kings coach] Terry Murray has a [defensive] system in place.”

Part of being an effective defensive player involves making safe plays with the puck rather than taking risks, said Morris.

Purcell and his former Black Bear linemate, Michel Leveille, said they both enjoyed being back at Alfond Arena.

“It’s always great to come back here,” said Purcell.

Leveille, who also plays for Manchester, scored his first goal in 18 games this season. Although Leveille isn’t getting a lot of ice time, he could earn a lot more with consistent play, according to Morris.

Morris said Leveille is in a similar situation to Purcell only on a smaller scale.

Purcell is looking to return to the NHL, while Leveille is simply seeking more ice time.

“Michel has a lot of skill. There aren’t many players who can see the ice like he does,” said Morris. “But he’s still learning the defensive side of the game. And I’d like to see him compete more for pucks.”

Leveille has six assists to go with his goal in 18 games.

Alfond was enjoyable experience

Playing at Alfond Arena was an enjoyable experience for the AHL players.

“It was good. It’s always nice to see the facilities at the big [hockey] schools,” said Portland’s Colton Fretter, who played at Michigan State.

“It’s a great rink,” said Portland’s Aaron Slattengren.

Portland coach Kevin Dineen said Maine coach Tim Whitehead and the university staff couldn’t have been more hospitable to them in allowing them to use their facilities.

In fact, Dineen wrote a thank you note to Whitehead and the staff on the chalkboard after the game.

lmahoney@bangordailynews.net

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