By: Hamilton Bulldogs
04/12/2013 1:28 PM -
HAMILTON, Ont. – For Kyle Hagel, the Hamilton Bulldogs’ two games this weekend against the Lake Erie Monsters are more than just matchups against an American Hockey League North Division rival.
The home-and-home set, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Copps Coliseum, and concluding at Cleveland at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, is the first chance he has had to square off against his younger brother Marc, who recently signed an Amateur Tryout contract with the Monsters.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Kyle Hagel, a Bulldogs’ left winger and Hamilton native who, at 28, is more than three years older than Marc who has patrolled the right wing for the Monsters in his first two AHL games.
“It’s a unique experience and I am happy Marc is getting a chance to play in the AHL. He’s a great player and it will be awesome for him to show what he can do, not just at the AHL level, but in front of his hometown. This will be the first time we have ever played with or against each other, either in hockey or lacrosse.”
The elder Hagel is in his fifth AHL season while Marc signed on with the Monsters on April 2 after finishing his collegiate career at Miami University after the Redhawks lost 4-1 to the St. Cloud State Huskies in the NCAA Midwest regional final on March 31 at Toledo, Ohio.
“He has playmaking ability,” Kyle said of his brother. “I think he is playing on the wing, but he is a natural centre and he is a responsible, defensive-minded centre who can block shots and contribute on the penalty kill. I think that’s where he is most effective, he definitely has a lot of upside. Given the appropriate opportunity in the AHL he could be a first-unit penalty killer and a good third-line centre who could put up some numbers.
“He is a gritty guy, but he is more of a playmaker than me. I know he can fit in and find a niche. For Marc it’s an opportunity to endear himself to an organization. I’ve always said when you are in the AHL you are so close to the NHL you can almost taste it. Half the guys on our team have played at least one game in the NHL and there are always guys going up and coming down. ”
The Hagels followed similar paths to the AHL. Both played for the Junior A Hamilton Red Wings and spent four years at Princeton University. Marc graduated from Princeton and transferred to Miami for his final year.
“He followed the same path, but he always ended up as a captain and I was an assistant,” said Kyle. “He was captain of the Red Wings, I was an assistant. He was captain at Princeton, I was an assistant in my senior year. He has really carved his own path.”
In addition to two games against the Monsters, the Bulldogs, who have been eliminated from playoff contention with six games remaining, will host the Oklahoma City Barons at 5 p.m. Sunday.
“We’re all playing for something,” said Hagel. “There are guys here who want to make a good impression on the coaching staff and on the Montreal Canadiens so they can get a shot in training camp next year. For me and some other guys here, we are always playing for our jobs. We want to impress our own team and the teams that might be watching. You don’t coast into the finish in pro hockey. There’s pride, but you want to make sure your numbers are good and you are showing up on the game sheet.”
The Bulldogs head into this weekend’s action after a splitting a four-game road trip through the South Division. The Bulldogs lost 4-1 to the Barons on April 2, but posted a 4-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage three days later. The Bulldogs edged the Texas Stars, the top team in the Western Conference, 2-1 last Saturday night and fell 2-0 to the Houston Aeros on Sunday.
“It was a great road trip,” said Hagel. “We had a lot of fun in Texas and we showed up and played some pretty good hockey. Those back-to-back wins over San Antonio and Texas were massive. Texas is a great team and they brought the best out of us. It was an exciting game and we answered the bell. We came to play and when we are strong defensively and get great goaltending like we did that night we can win. I thought we played well in Houston at the end of a three-in-three and we hung tough with a good team. Hopefully it gave us a little momentum to carry us through the rest of the season.”
Hagel, who is second on the team with 168 penalty minutes, scored his first goal of the season at Oklahoma City. The goal was his first in the AHL since March 20, 2011 when he scored for the Rockford IceHogs in a 5-3 road loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Hagel, who also has four assists in 61 games, was limited to seven games last season with the Peoria Rivermen due to a shoulder injury.
“It was fun to score. I almost forgot what it felt like, it had been a while. That’s a unique feeling for me, everybody was coming over to hug me and they were all cheering.”
The AHL announced Thursday that Hagel was the Bulldogs’ nominee for the league’s Man of the Year Award for his contributions to the Hamilton community.
“It’s even more important for me to contribute to the community that helped make me who I am. I did the Stick to Reading program twice here to make that extra effort to get involved with the kids here. I feel like you can have an impact, you can encourage them with good work habits and goal setting and reinforcing how important it is to stay in school. It feels like I am getting across to the kids.”