Photo Credit Patrick Garriepy- Patrick Garriepy Photography
Hugo Haas has come a long way just to play in the North American Hockey League for the Northeast Generals. The Opava, Czech Republic native has always had goaltending on his mind. His father, Rotislav was his inspiration. He had a 17 year career playing across different professional leagues in Europe, culminating in finishing with the team he now coaches goaltending for, the Augsburg Panthers in the DEL, the top professional German Ice Hockey . When Hugo discussed his style of goaltender he tries to be like, he shared something his father told him that he takes to heart. The saying, as Hugo noted is “stealing is bad, but stealing with your eyes is a good thing.” That is, Haas is inspired by other goaltenders, of which he watches many on a daily basis, and tries to play his own game in the process. He wants to develop his game and his off ice skills with time, and enjoys the steady grind of improving his game. Hockey has been his life, but he knows that playing college hockey will give him not only a better chance to make the NHL, but he appreciates being able to get his degree.
As he said on the opportunity to be seen and develop. “Just the exposure that it has… Obviously you have an education to it..its a little different than Europe.. I think it’s a good route to develop”, Haas is undecided on what he wants to do for a major yet, but is looking forward to begin that internal process of deciding soon, given that he just announced his decision to come to AIC today. He did note that, unlike the European system, he appreciates being able to earn a degree along with playing hockey instead of having to choose between the two when his junior hockey career is complete.
Haas was methodical about choosing where to play. On why he will be a Yellow Jacket, he said “ I just liked the way that they overall presented themselves.” He praised the international history of the program, and their European connections. He felt that the school does a good job working with players from all around the world, and he also is a teammate of Alexander Tertyshny who will join AIC next year. Haas plans to join the program for the 2022-2023 season. He called Alexander his best friend, and noted the frequent friendly competitive battles the two have during practice. Head Coach Eric Lang has talked about the growth of the program being in part because of “players recruiting other players,” with Hugo, that could also extend the saying to recruits recruiting other recruits.
As to how he came to the North American Hockey League, and is playing for the Generals this and next year, Head Coach Bryan Erikson said, that “I first saw tape of him from one of his Coaches Mike McCarthy and then I saw him play in a showcase over here. Wanted to get him over last year but he had visa issues. So we got him over here for this season and we were not disappointed! What jumps out at you when you watch Hugo for the 1st time or 50th time is his composure. He is just so calm no matter what is going on around him. He is such a calming influence on the game. He is aggressive with his positioning and he plays the puck and passes it better than most D men. That’s what jumped out and still continues to impress me.”
This year, he has been a calming presence in net for a Generals team looking to go on a run late in the season to earn a playoff spot in their division. Erikson may have set the team on the right path in that regard, as he used a timeout as a reset when the team was trailing the Johnstown Tomahawks 4-1. The team quickly scored two goals to get back in the game, and then Tertyshny scored the next two to give the Generals two badly needed points. Haas played his best, and did not concede another goal, putting up 26 saves on the day, and the Generals won 5-4.
As to the pressure of being in net, well, Haas thrives on it. He enjoys the mental challenge of being in net all game, and sees the game pretty well. His ability to stay calm in net, combined with his positioning are two things that stand out when watching him. One reason he can also handle the puck so well is because of his background. He did not play goalie full time until he was 12, and he attributes his puck handling prowess to that consistent development.
One adjustment Haas has made this year is to North American rinks. Since coming over to the NAHL, he has gotten used to increasing workloads (the width on North American rinks is 15 feet shorter than rinks in Europe, leading to faster paced, higher shot total games) and facing high shot volumes. In a way, he embodies Eric Lang’s quote on preparing for the Atlantic Hockey Tournament after a 49 day pause in between games, “pressure is privilege.”
He has another year to lead the Generals, regardless of how this year finished, and given that they will have at least two high impact players coming from the National Champion (Premier and Elite) Charlotte Rush program in the USPHL, combined with Haas in net, and a developing group around him, next year in Attleboro Massachusetts for Hugo presents an opportunity for him to finish his junior hockey career as a part of a veteran team looking to improve from whatever this year’s result is.
For this year, Haas will finish playing with one of his best friends, looking to help the Generals go on a late run to the playoffs, in two years, 94.6 miles away from Attleboro the two will be together again, playing Division One College Hockey on their path to earn a degree, and further hone their skills together for a staff with similar values to the ones Erikson and his staff preach and practice.
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