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Agostino set to play for NCAA National Championship

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames
Kenny Agostino celebrates Andrew Miller's overtime goal against the UMass Lowell RiverHawks in the Frozen Four semi-final on Apr. 11, 2013.

PITTSBURGH, PA -- Kenny Agostino was fast alseep in his hotel room in Grand Rapids when the news broke that he was no longer a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect.

The Yale junior was part of the package Calgary received in the trade that sent Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh late on Mar. 27 so when he woke up the next morning, thinking the biggest part of his day would be preparing for the NCAA West Regional, he was inundated with texts, calls and messages on social media.

"It's a weird feeling. It's my first time being part of a trade. It really gives you a sense of the business side of the game," the 20 year-old told after Yale's practice on Friday. "It's cool to be part of something like that.

"I'm really excited to be part of Calgary's organization now."

He and Ben Hanowski, who just wrapped up his collegiate career with St. Cloud State University, were very important pieces in the Iginla trade. The Flames pro scouting staff got a good read on both players during the work stoppage as they had more time to view collegiate players than they would have during an 82-game NHL season. The organization believes both Agostino and Hanowski have the skill sets required to become full-time, productive NHLers in the future.

"Our pro scouts feel very strongly about these players," Feaster explained last month. "We add size up front, which is something that we as an organization need. We don't have a lot of it in the system right now. Both of them are guys that think the game very well, they fit our criteria for hockey sense, and they both have good skill level."

However, Agostino hasn't had a lot of time to think about the trade and his future with the team as the Yale Bulldogs have been pushing their way through the NCAA Tournament. Labelled as underdogs by the media, the boys from New Haven, CT have silenced their critics with excellent performances against the highly-touted Minnesota Golden Gophers in the NCAA West Regional, North Dakota in the NCAA West Regional Final and the UMass Lowell RiverHawks in the Frozen Four semi-final.

"If you look at our season, overall, our large body of work this year is what got us into the tournament," Agostino said. "Once you get in, any team can win this thing. We're a confident group. We're tough, we work hard. We don't feel that we're the underdog."

The Bulldogs will now face the Quinnipiac Bobcats for the National Championship on Saturday in Pittsburgh. The Bobcats speed and transition game led them to a 4-1 victory over St. Cloud on Thursday night and while Agostino knows Quinnipiac presents a challenge for his crew, he feels they are up to the task.

"One of big parts of our game against UMass Lowell was our defence," the Flanders, NJ native said. "We're really sound defensively. I think that led to a lot of offensive chances on Thursday and generated some goals.

"Quinnipiac is a great hockey team so you have to respect their offensive capabilities and their goalie. So, for us, we have to be defensively sound and get traffic, bodies in front of their goalie to score some ugly goals."

Crashing the crease and looking for the "greasy" goal is nothing new for the Political Science major. Agostino has been lauded on many occasions for his willingness to compete in the tough areas and play a physical brand of hockey. A perfect example of this came on Yale's first goal against UMass Lowell on Thursday night.

Stationed right in front of the goaltender, Agostino shoved away the defenders trying to dislodge him from his spot and completely blocked out RiverHawks netminder Connor Hellebuyck's sight lines as the defenceman hammered home a shot from the point.

"I think my strengths come down low, below the dots - working, protecting the puck and taking it to the net," was Agostino's assessment of his style of play. "I also like to make some nice plays as well and I think I'm pretty good at finishing in front of the net."

Agostino is a junior so he has one year of NCAA eligibility left. The winger has put together a career-season in 2012-13, leading the Bulldogs with 17 goals and 40 points. Prior to his collegiate career, Agostino played at Delbarton School and set a school record with 261 points during his tenure with The Green Wave.

FROZEN FOUR NOTE: The Frozen Four championship game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and Dial Global Radio at 5:00 PM MT. Due to limited broadcast accessibility in Canada, @NHLFlames will be live-tweeting the game for fans who want to keep up with Agostino and Yale at the Frozen Four.

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