'The Pistol' Explodes
RPI's Haggerty Leads the Nation with 18 Goals
by Jen Dobias/CHN Reporter
Nobody at Rensselaer is surprised that Ryan Haggerty has exploded onto the collegiate hockey scene this year.
With his blistering shot and 6-foot frame, he always had offensive upside. He just had some maturing to do before he could become the finisher he always knew that he could be.
“He’s going to score 10 a year just on his shot because his shot’s so good,” RPI head coach Seth Appert said. “Now, he has a higher level of commitment to playing the game the right way. He plays more physical; he finishes more checks; he wins more puck battles. And, because he does those things, he has the puck more. He’s always been extremely dangerous with the puck so, when he has the puck more, good things happen.”
That they have: Haggerty currently leads the nation with 18 goals in 19 games. The junior bested his previous career high of 12 goals early, netting 13 in RPI’s first 10 games. He’s had six multi-goal efforts so far, including his first career hat trick against Sacred Heart on Oct. 19. Before this season, he only had seven multi-point nights in his collegiate career.
“I’ve always believed in myself as an offensive player,” Haggerty said. “It’s been tough the last couple of years with scoring and whatnot, and then this year things started falling into place. It’s boosted my confidence as a player because now I know I can do more than I’ve ever done in the past.”
Appert likened Haggerty to Chase Polacek, a two-time Hobey Baker finalist for RPI who scored 26 goals as a junior, and then 21 as a senior, after netting 18 over his freshman and sophomore years combined.
“All of a sudden, Chase made a jump, like Ryan is,” Appert said. “A lot of it is just gaining an understanding of where you need to go to score, five-on-five especially, and also just adding strength through working their tails off in the summer in the weight room.”
Haggerty has been more willing to go into the dirty areas of the rink, like the corners or front of the net, to generate scoring chances. And he’s much stronger on the puck because of the work that he’s done in the weight room to fill out his frame, as he’s grown from 185 to 200 pounds since his freshman year.
“I’m trying to be more aggressive as a player, not sitting back and hoping for a pass,” Haggerty said. “I think any goal’s a big goal to have because they help your team win.”
Haggerty has also logged plenty of time on the power play and has responded by tallying eight power play goals, good for first in the nation. Five of his eight assists came with the man advantage, and the Engineers consistently utilize his shot to spark their attack.
“I know this personally because I’m the one standing in front of the net, getting with it half the time,” RPI alternate captain Brock Higgs said, with a chuckle. “We work the puck up high to him to allow him to get a one-timer off, and that’s where he gets a lot of his offense from.”
It’s hard to sustain a goal-per-game pace, and Haggerty has recently cooled off. Over the past four games, all RPI losses, he had just two assists. It’s the first time this season he has been held without a goal for consecutive games.
“He had seven shots on goal and hit two posts against Ferris State on Friday so, even though it looks like he didn’t score, he had a dominate-type game and easily could have had two or three that night,” Appert said. “He might go a weekend or two without scoring a goal because goalies make big saves or he’s getting more attention, but if he continues to play the way he’s playing it won’t be much longer than that.”
Haggerty’s impact isn’t limited to his scoring. During his first two seasons, he was sometimes guilty of taking emotionally-charged penalties or not back checking hard enough. Appert noted that some of Haggerty’s greatest strides have been made on defense.
“He’s evolved from being a five-on-five minus player into a plus player,” Appert said. “Wingers that get scored on a lot of times usually are wingers that turn the puck over on the breakout. Wall play is hard, and that’s a big job for a winger. That’s an area he’s made great improvements in.”
But Haggerty is still most known for shot. Higgs joked that some of the Engineers have dubbed him “Pistol” because he’s always shooting the puck in practice and during games. As it turns out, the nickname is fitting: Haggerty has taken the second most shots (92) and averages the fourth most per game (4.84) in the nation.
“He loves to shoot the puck, and we always kind of get on him about it,” Higgs said. “It’s not always on net or the best shot, but it’s always a shot.”
Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Although this statement is often misquoted and has become a bit of a cliché, it clearly rings true to RPI’s pistol.