Pawling Boys' Ice Hockey Team Aims High Under Coach Kevin Haggerty
The Pawling boys’ ice hockey team has come a long way since coach Kevin Haggerty entered the picture in 2020. From practicing on a frozen outdoor rink to advancing from the D to B League after their playoff win last year, the team has shown remarkable improvement and resilience under Haggerty’s guidance.
“We had a rough start but winning the D League for the first time in over 10 years was a huge testament to how far Pawling boys’ ice hockey has come,” said Haggerty. “It’s been a few years of building up to all that we can be as a program, but we’re really getting there.”
The B League represents a higher tier in ice hockey, one in which players have more experience and ability than those in the lower leagues. Pawling’s B League status means the team faces tougher competition this year, and Haggerty was sure to get ahead of the game. A former varsity ice hockey player at Suffern High School, Haggerty arranged for the team’s first game of the season to be played against his alma mater – who also happen to be Division 1 champions. His goal was to expose them to the level of hockey they aspire to play.
Though they lost 6-1, Pawling Athletic Director John Bellucci said that it was an inspired move.
“Bottom line, he wanted to test the kids early to show them what it’s like to compete against the best boys’ varsity hockey players in the state,” Bellucci said. “The idea was to show them that if they can hang on and give a team like Suffern a good run for their money, then nobody’s out of range.”
“They were exhausted afterward, but my hope was that they could see the level of hockey that I think they can achieve themselves,” said Haggerty. “It gave them an understanding of what it will take to elevate our game.“
Haggerty said that a big part of the team’s development has been its three senior athletes – Cole Geiger, Mason Carman, and Noah Lavoie. He praised them for leading the way and setting the tone for the team, which is primarily made up of underclassmen.
“The older guys have done a great job of becoming leaders and showing the younger guys how to keep on the right path,” Haggerty said. “It’s come full circle now with them being the first freshmen I coached on this team who are now leaders and excellent players in general.
“The team culture is a completely different atmosphere than it was when we first started, and the older kids have been a huge part of that.”
Senior Mason agreed with Haggerty’s sentiments – but also made it clear that he believes the legacy he and his senior teammates will leave behind will outshine the team’s current achievements.
“These younger guys have gotten so good and so close,” he said. “I know they’re just going to keep getting better every year after we’re gone – way better than the three of us.”
Cole put it differently: “These younger kids are ridiculous. I will definitely be coming back to watch them play after we graduate. They’re going to be insane.”
Haggerty said his goal for this year is to make a run for the section championship, which would be the first in Pawling's history. However, he also emphasized the importance of focusing on one game at a time and improving every day.
"My sights are always high but my biggest focus is constant improvement,” he said. “They’re up for any challenge, though. This is an incredible group of kids with a complete turnaround story from playing on a half-frozen outdoor rink to competing with the best teams in the section.
“They've been doing an amazing job and no matter what happens, I'm honored to be their coach.”