Kyle Hagel distinguished himself as a leader during his career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team from 2004-2008.
The rugged Hagel, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, served as an assistant captain of the Tigers and helped Princeton win the ECAC Hockey championship in his senior campaign.
Now another member of the Hagel clan, has stepped into a leadership role for the Tigers as younger brother, Marc, is serving as Princeton’s captain this winter.
The younger Hagel is relishing the chance to follow in his brother’s footsteps as a team captain.
“It is an honor and a great privilege,” said senior forward Hagel, reflecting on his post. “I get to lead a great group of guys.”
In handling that responsibility, Hagel has consulted his brother. “Kyle is a special guy; he was actually down last weekend,” said Hagel. “We were able to hang out and have coffee and had some good talks. He saw us play UConn; it was good to see him.”
Hagel knows that it is a stroke of good fortune for the brothers to share their Princeton hockey experience.
“Coming to an institution like Princeton is the best opportunity I have had in my entire life,” asserted Hagel. “For two of us to come here, we are really grateful.”
Last Friday against visiting Dartmouth, Hagel took advantage of a scoring opportunity as he scored early in the third period to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
“I saw Jeremy Goodwin winding up from the point and and two guys crashed the net from my right side,” recalled the 6’0, 200-pound Hagel, reflecting on his sixth goal of the season and the 16th of his Princeton career.
“He shot far left and it popped right to me. I knew the goalie was going to jump across so I just laid her on the ice.”
The Big Green tied the game at 3-3 a minute later and then the game took a strange turn as a Dartmouth shot shattered a pane of glass with 12:36 left in the period, causing a delay of more than an hour as the panel was replaced.
The hiatus prompted some creative leadership by Hagel. “We got unchanged and played a little one-touch soccer in a circle in the room,” said Hagel.
“Then with about 15 minutes left in the break, we put our stuff back on and went around the room and had a good little talk. Everyone put in their input.”
Once play resumed, Princeton put in a good effort. “We had a face-off in our own end,” said Hagel. “I took the face-off and we won it clean. We got it out of our end and went right to work.”
The game ended in a 3-3 tie as neither team could break through in the remaining 12:36 plus five minutes of overtime before a sellout crowd of 2,292 at Baker Rink. The tie left Princeton at 7-10-6 overall and 5-8-3 in ECAC Hockey action.
While Hagel would have preferred to see Princeton end the night with a win, he saw the effort as progress.
“We are definitely moving in the right direction,” asserted Hagel, who has helped the Tigers go 3-1-4 in their last eight contests.
“We have a young team and it is hard to tell the guys what it takes to win. It has to happen and it needs to build. We have been doing a good job; we have been playing some good teams. Ties are not what we want but it is a step in the right direction.”
Princeton head coach Bob Prier saw the performance as a step forward. “I thought our guys did a really good job, we have a lot of guys banged up,” said Prier.
“With the absence of guys like Brodie Zuk and Will MacDonald, who have both been incredible for us, a lot of guys stepped up. I thought Will Ford had a great game; he had a couple of great opportunities. I thought Andrew Ammon played his heart out tonight; he is so explosive. He looked like the type of player who is on the verge of being a dominant college player. There were a lot of good things.”
Prier saw some good things in the way the Tigers responded after the unusual delay.
“I thought we had great jump coming out for those last 12 minutes; our guys played extremely hard,” added Prier, whose team outshot Dartmouth 39-32.
“I look at that game and 45 minutes of it and if you break it down, we deserved a better fate. But with a team like Dartmouth that is that skilled offensively; they just need a few openings and they are going to capitalize. We gave them too many opportunities and they certainly capitalized on a few of them.”
Although Princeton failed to secure the win and accompanying two points in the league standings, the tie could come in handy.
“This could be a crucial point moving forward when we are fighting for a bye and the league is still up for grabs,” said Prier, whose team heads to New York this weekend to play at Clarkson (13-12-5 overall, 7-6-3 ECACH) on February 10 and at St Lawrence (10-15-3 overall, 6-9-1 ECACH) the next day.
“We have 12 points available to us. A game over .500 in the league could get you a bye, .500 could get you a bye. It is going to be competitive, it is going to be down to the wire.”
In Prier’s view, Hagel’s leadership will be a crucial factor for Princeton down the stretch.
“Marc gives you so much; his leadership, his intangibles are incredible,” said Prier.
“He wants this thing so darn bad and it is evident everyday in practice and no matter what we are doing. From day one, he understands his charge and the guys understand what it is. He has got a very young team to lead so the job that he is doing is just outstanding along with the help from Brodie, Michael Sdao, and Derrick Pallis.”
Hagel, for his part, is determined to get the most out of everyday as he wraps up his college career.
“I am an in-the-moment type of guy,” said Hagel. “I am living every single day and every single game. I don’t worry about the future because I know we are going to do great things here.”