Road to D1 scholarship a long haul for Matt Purmal
A long journey see-sawing across the continent that veered back almost to home finally took a turn that nearly all junior hockey players are seeking – a Division 1 college scholarship.
Merrill’s Matt Purmal traveled to the Upper Peninsula, Texas and Alberta, Canada in his personal version of the quest, before catching on with the Green Bay Gamblers this fall. But by next fall he will be playing for St. Lawrence University in upper New York.
“I’m really excited to start playing college hockey and get my college education started,” Purmal said. “It’s a great program with great coaches and everything. This year they’re doing really good and for the most part they’ve been a good team.
“It’s been a long road, but I’ve had fun doing it.”
The Saints are 8-6-2 this year, as well as 2-2-2 in the ECAC, a 12-school conference that includes six Ivy League schools. They finished 18-16 last year in Coach Greg Carvel’s first year.
Recent success has bumped the Gamblers up to 11-5-4 in the Eastern Conference of the USHL.
“This past weekend we won all three of our games and we just moved up to third place,” Purmal said. “At home we’ve been very successful (7-0-1). We just need to pick it up in our away games (4-5-3). Me and my partner (Jordan Gross) start every game for the most part.”
Matt credits the Gamblers with his shot at college hockey.
“Playing in the USHL, you’re not only playing where most of the scouts look, now those scouts could see me playing against other (college-) committed hockey players,” he said. “It really boosted me ahead showing I could compete with them and succeed.”
When Purmal gets to St. Lawrence, he has a good shot at making considerable contributions as a 20-year old.
“From what (Carvel) told me, I would be playing right away because he’s looking for an older, more-experienced player from juniors,” Matt said. “He told me he wants a bigger, more physical player like myself.”
Purmal is currently 6’ 3” and 195 pounds and plays an aggressive style of defense that has also provided a goal and two assists for the Gamblers. He was leading the team at a plus-8 in value.
“I like my size, but I can always get stronger and quicker,” Matt said. “I’m working out with the Gamblers staff, and over the summer, I’ll work out with Eric Filipiak at Parisi (Speed School in Riverside Athletic Club). He’s a great trainer and I enjoy working out with him.”
Matt left the Bluejay hockey team after his sophomore year of high school due to the unique road young hockey players need to take to compete in college.
“At the D1 level there are 50 schools, give or take, that have hockey, so there are not as many opportunities,” David Purmal, Matt’s father and a D1 player himself at Northern Michigan U. “St. Lawrence is considered one of the premier hockey schools.”
Matt may have missed MHS at first as he headed to the Marquette Electricians, but he has no regrets.
“It was always a thought that first year, but I had a lot of experiences that a normal high school student never has. I had a good family my first year away, so that helped along with having my brother (Norman) there.”
Purmal has also played in Wichita Falls, Texas, and Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Who knows where this could lead?
“(College hockey) can be a stepping stone to professional hockey, but right now I’m just looking at getting my college education paid for and having a great time playing college hockey,” Matt said.