The personal trials and tribulations of Brandon Hagel have mirrored those of the Red Deer Rebels this season.
When the Rebels were struggling (to put it mildly) through November, December and January, Hagel was also battling through injuries, and to scrape together points when he was in the lineup.
The last two months have been a much different story for both the Rebels and Hagel. The team is 16-4-1 in its last 21 games on their way to clinching a playoff spot. Hagel has 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) during that stretch to rocket past Kristian Reichel into second place in team scoring.
“I’m just trying to play a team game, to help the team out before myself. The personal stuff has just come along with that,” Hagel said modestly before practice on Monday.
“It’s more fun when the team is having success than having personal success. We’re having both, so that’s obviously nice. The emotion and intensity in the dressing room, right now, after winning a game is just unbelievable.”
The Morinville, Alberta native was out of the Rebels lineup for 42 days in December and January with a hand injury. Since then, he’s been arguably the best Rebels forward.
“It took a little bit to get into it, but by a few games in I felt pretty good,” he admitted. “Working out and skating before [coming back] obviously helped a little bit. But after getting into a couple games I’ve been playing at my best.”
“He’s pushing the pace and scoring goals for us, which is outstanding,” noted Rebels Associate Coach Jeff Truitt. “He’s been an impact guy for a while; his game has gotten better at the right time.
“You wait for it and wait for it and when it clicks it is like a bonus. But you expect those things out of your top players like Hags.”
Whether his hot streak helps his pro hockey aspirations remains to be seen – he’s yet to sign with the Buffalo Sabres after being selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
But at the very least it comes at the perfect time for the Rebels, who can feel good heading into the post-season with one of their top players playing at a top level.
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