Now in his sixth season of professional hockey, the 2008 graduate of Princeton University — yes, THAT Princeton University — is playing for the Portland Pirates, the eighth team for which he’s worn a sweater.

He’s used to moving around.

This season, he’s also known what it’s like when his teammates are traveling without him when an injury forced him to miss a month of action, including a much-anticipated trip to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“A whole month just taking stats and having to stay home when the team goes on a road trip, it stinks,” Hagel said. “Especially to St. John’s. That’s the one everyone always looks forward to. I was just here, doing rehab.”

But that rehab allowed Hagel to return to the Pirates’ lineup.

“In certain ways, it was almost an advantage,” Hagel said. “There were a couple of weeks I got some great rest and my diet was great all week, and I gave myself every possible opportunity to heal. Now, it feels good and I’m happy to be back.”

And the team has welcomed his presence.

“He’s been back for three games and he’s had a real impact, and that’s helped us,” Pirates coach Ray Edwards said.

The positive results — no goals and no assists — aren’t point-driven. Rather, Hagel’s impact lies with, well, impact. In three games since returning to the lineup, he’s accumulated 14 penalty minutes and has been a pest with which opponents have had to deal.

“It’s so important to have a guy like Hagel on your team,” Pirates leading scorer Andy Miele said. “Every night, you always know what you’re going to get from him, he goes to battle for the team, and it’s hard to find guys like that who are willing to put their body on the line every night for you. It really gets the team together.”

Hagel didn’t get much of a chance to fight while plying his trade at Princeton — the NCAA strictly forbids fighting and enforces steep penalties for doing so. But fighting is only a part of being an energy-line player.

“Energy, enthusiasm, the forecheck game,” Edwards said. “If you can have a forecheck game with some impact, you’re not defending near as much. He’s such an inspirational leader for us, too. He’s such a team favorite and just to have him out there gives us a boost.”

“One-hundred percent, that’s my role, to try and bring energy to the team, provide a spark when we need it, get the guys fired up,” Hagel said.

After four years at Princeton, Hagel spent 2008-09 with Fresno and Reading of the ECHL, as well as with Rochester in the AHL. He skated for Las Vegas (ECHL) and Rockford (AHL) in 2009-10, and played a full season with the IceHogs in 2010-11.

After a brief stop in Peoria of the AHL, Hagel played last season with Hamilton before joining the Pirates prior to the start of this season.

In 187 games in the AHL, Hagel has accumulated 553 penalty minutes, including 245 in 77 games in 2010-11 with Rockford.

“I want the guys on my team to not be intimidated, to be able to go out there and play their game, so they can feel comfortable knowing that if things start getting edgy out there, they have someone who will back them up,” Hagel said. “That’s what I bring, and hopefully it translates to us winning more games.”

So far, so good. Since his return, the Pirates have taken all three games they’ve played into overtime, earning four of a possible six points.

As for traveling, Hagel said he wouldn’t mind taking a break for a while. He’s lived in enough hockey cities and towns in his career to know when one feels right.

“I totally feel at home here,” Hagel said. “I get along great with these guys. We hang out away from the rink, which is fun. Couldn’t be happier. With the exception of the injury, things started off great and they’ve been great since.”


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