PITTSBURGH — When Kenny Agostino woke up on the morning of March 28 in a hotel room in Grand Rapids, Mich., there were maybe 50 text messages clogging his cellphone. His mind had been on Minnesota, the second-ranked team in the NCAA Tournament, and a difficult task for lightly regarded Yale in the West Regional.
His mind had not been on being traded. And yet, according to the whim of Jarome Iginla, Agostino was no longer property of the Pittsburgh Penguins, being shipped to the Calgary Flames the night before along with fellow Frozen Four participant Ben Hanowski of St. Cloud State.
“I was asleep when it happened,” Agostino said. “I woke up, looked at my phone, and I had a lot more phone buzz than I usually get for a Thursday morning. I knew something had happened.”
Iginla, who was all but traded to the Bruins, had decided that he instead wanted to play for the Penguins. That meant Agostino was on the move.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Agostino said. “The first time it happens, it’s weird. But it sets in and you get a taste for the business side of the game.”
But that couldn’t be his priority at the moment. He needed to focus on Minnesota, and focus he did, scoring a goal and tallying an assist on the deciding score in Yale’s overtime win over the Gophers just one day after being traded. And so, Yale’s run to the Frozen Four had begun.
“The guys were really supportive about it,” the junior forward said. “If you’re a hockey player, you know it’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of it. The guys were good about it that morning, at breakfast, when it happened. I think them and myself obviously realized at that time it was important to put it in the back of my mind and just worry about playing Minnesota.”
So, instead of playing UMass-Lowell at his future home — the Consol Energy Center — Agostino will be playing in just another NHL arena on Thursday, as will Hanowski.
“It’s definitely been a unique two weeks,” Hanowski said. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”
When Yale returned home after beating Minnesota and North Dakota to reach the Frozen Four, Agostino took some time to reflect. He talked to his parents. He talked to his adviser.
But then he put his mind back to the task at hand. And his teammates appreciated that.
“I can’t say more about anyone else in hockey,” junior Jesse Root said. “Whenever we’re in the room he’s watching the NHL Network and ‘NHL on the Fly.’ He loves the game. You can see that when he plays.
“As a player, he’s one of the best puck protectors I’ve played with. As a linemate, that opens up a lot for us.”
Agostino was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round in 2010, and has blossomed at Yale. He is an All-America candidate, and leads the Bulldogs with 40 points, putting him 14th in Division 1 with 1.14 points per game.
In addition to the two points against Minnesota, he had another goal and two assists in the West Regional.
“Kenny’s a great left winger, incredibly skilled, a great shot, and a great passer,” senior forward Andrew Miller said. “He works so hard day in and day out, and he’s so excited to be at the rink. There is a great quality about him, his personality and his work ethic.”
And now, he’ll be bringing both to Calgary, though Agostino isn’t yet ready to determine whether he’ll be back in New Haven next season or with the Flames.
For now, he’s just thinking about UMass-Lowell and the Frozen Four. There is plenty of time for his hockey future.
“I’ve had a really exciting month,” Agostino said. “I’m really fortunate to be a part of some things I’ve been a part of. It’s hard to just not sit back and take it all in, but I’m not satisfied yet. That’s for sure.
“I think I really have done a good job of keeping a level head during the whole experience, realizing what’s at stake, how special an experience and rare an experience I have right now.”