All-State defenseman Kevin Purcell set for his third season with the Ramblers
By Ross Forman – Kevin Purcell is a three-year player for Loyola Gold who has established himself as one of the state’s best defenseman – and he’s driven to return the Ramblers to elite status in Illinois.
Last season, you see, was a downer for the Ramblers, finishing 10-14-0-3-0 in the 10-team Scholastic Hockey League. Gold finished in seventh place with 23 points. And, to make matters worse, arch-rival New Trier Green skated away convincingly with the league championship, with a 26-1 record (52 points).
“We struggled during the regular-season, however we came out in the playoffs and upset Glenbrook North and Stevenson. We felt like our team saved our best hockey for the end of the year,” Purcell said. “Coming off a sub-.500 season, I feel no pressure. I feel like we have a great group of guys this year and we’re ready to get back to not only competing, but hopefully beating the top teams in the state.”
Purcell, 18, who lives in Winnetka, is a senior in jersey No. 27. He played his youth hockey for the Glenview Stars and Winnetka Warriors – and is now partnered on defense with Dayne Smoter.
“I hope to play a bigger role in the offense on transition this year. I’d like to be able to shift from defense to offense both physically and mentally a little quicker this year,” said Purcell, who had 3 goals and a team-high 12 assists in 26 league games last season. “My coach and I set a goal last season of having an All-State season. It was an honor to be out there on the ice with the state’s top players, such as Matt Dahlke (Glenbrook North) and Brian Dolby (New Trier Green).
“I try to bring unmatched energy every day we’re on the ice. I’m a big, fast dual threat defenseman. I try to work as hard as possible in the defensive zone, but I love to get some speed going through the neutral zone and join the rush.”
Purcell also plays a key role for the Ramblers off the ice.
“I love to keep my team motivated and focused. Whether we’re up two or down five, our mentality must stay the same and we must play our game,” said Purcell, who noted the team support of assistant captains Nick Braun and Johnny Sullivan.
The left-handed shooting Purcell said the team’s goal is simple: Win State.
He does know what it’s like to skate at the United Center, yet the Ramblers lost 2-0 to New Trier Green during his sophomore season. “The UC is an experience I’ll never forget,” he said.
Purcell was one of six defensemen who skated for the successful Illinois team in the 2019 Fall Showcase at the NAPHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota, which featured a 7-6 overtime win over Shattuck-St. Mary’s 18U team – that win remains a highlight from Purcell’s hockey career.
“I’m fired up for another great year with another great group of guys,” Purcell said. “I want to give a special thank-you to Loyola Gold head coach, D.J. LaVarre. I know taking a sophomore on a roster that had 20 seniors on it probably wasn’t easy, but I hope you’ve enjoyed these last three years that we’ve gotten to spend together … and I hope we end it in March at the UC.”
Slapshots With … Loyola Gold defenseman Kevin Purcell
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Dustin Byfuglien
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Miracle
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: Peanut butter and jelly
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Travis Scott
Influences: “My sophomore year, team captain Nick Liebers … he has had the most impact on my game. He was someone who played with more of a competitive edge than anybody else on the ice. He was an outstanding leader and an even better teammate.”
All In The Family: “My brother (John) played on Loyola Gold for two years and had an unreal experience. It made me excited to finally get my chance at high school hockey. Having a brother that played in the SHL before me, I was exposed to the great environment that it brings.”
Looking Ahead: “I haven’t decided on a school yet for next year, but I’m applying for an ROTC scholarship from the Marines.”
Off The Ice: “I picked up golf last spring during the pandemic. My teammates and I started playing a lot this summer and fall.”
Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Ben Moro
Hardest Slapshot On Your Team: Ryan Cowan
Most Accurate Shot: Will Schreiber
Fastest Skater: Nicholas Malaniuk
Best High School Uniform (other than Loyola): Providence Catholic
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.