Before being named Yale’s rookie of the year last season, forward Kenny Agostino ’14 was a two-time New Jersey Player of the Year, three-time state champion and school all-time leading scorer at the Delbarton School. Currently, Agostino ranks second on the team in goals scored and third in total points. He sat down with the News to talk about the transition to collegiate hockey, his try-out for the U.S. Junior National Team and the state of the men’s hockey team.
Q: Talk about what your high school experience was like playing hockey and how that helped you to be a better player at Yale.
A: I had great time playing high school hockey for Delbarton. It was a lot of fun and it was a huge transition coming from high school hockey to freshman year here. But I think I learned a lot about hockey and the game last year, and I was able to make a pretty smooth transition as the season went along last year. This year, I just feel a lot more comfortable out there. I’m always learning from the coaching staff and the older players. There is still a lot more to learn about the game, but my coaches and teammates do a great job of bringing me along.
Q: A lot of collegiate players come from junior hockey leagues. Can you talk about why you decided to skip junior hockey and come straight to college?
A: Originally I was supposed to be a freshman for this season, but I guess the coaches came and saw me play senior year, and they thought I was ready to come in last year. So I came straight from high school, which is a different path than other guys on the team. I have a great class around me, just because we are different in age doesn’t really change anything. We are a really tight-knit group and I think that has helped me a lot.
Q: Since last season, you have been going to camp for the U.S. Junior National Team and you tried out for the team. Talk about what that experience was like.
A: Just being invited to that first evaluation camp this past summer was a tremendous honor. Whenever you put on the U.S.A. uniform, it’s an unbelievable feeling. I had a pretty good camp [experience] over the summer, and I really enjoyed myself and thought I played well. Fortunately, I was called back to the final 29-player roster this December and I went out to Alberta, Canada. I played in a couple of scrimmages, and it was an unbelievable experience again. Apparently, I was the final cut and it’s never easy being the final cut for a team like that. But it was a learning experience and I’m sure I’m going to be using that as motivation for the rest of the season.
Q: You are the team’s second-leading goal scorer. What makes you successful on ice?
A: I think I’m a pretty good playmaker, and I protect the puck pretty well. A lot of my goals came when I was playing with Andrew Miller ’13 and Brian O’Neill ’12. Those two are so good together, and they make the game a lot easier for me.
Q: Speaking of Miller and O’Neill, they have been key players since last season. But the team also lost key playmakers like Broc Little ’11 and Denny Kearney ’11. Have opposing defenses started playing differently without these graduated players?
A: Not really. I think [losing the last senior class] would have been a problem if no forwards stepped up to give us two solid offensive scoring lines. But I think we had numerous players step up this season, both young guys and older guys, to fill those roles. We are pretty deep at forwards, which has not allowed our opponents to zero in on [Miller and O’Neill].
Q: This past weekend, the team was down 4–1 against Dartmouth after the first period, but then you guys came back and you scored the game-winning goal. What was that like for you?
A: That was an unbelievable feeling to get that last goal. It was really a team win and such a character win for us. Hopefully, a few weeks down the road, we can say that win was the turning point of our season. We have a lot of momentum coming into this week. And now we know how we can play and how to be successful. We just need to play our game and play with passion like we did in that second and third period [of the Dartmouth game].
Q: Before the Dartmouth victory, the team went on a four-game losing streak. Can you talk about what happened during that stretch?
A: If you look at those games, most of them were one-goal losses. It was just a tough few couple of weeks for us. There wasn’t a lot to be happy about at the rink. We’d lose because of one play or little things that weren’t getting done to play a 60-minute game and get the win.
Q: What do you think is the biggest difference between this year and last year’s team, in terms of playing style, execution and personnel?
A: Last year, our team prided ourselves on work ethic, and we had a lot of older guys who have been there before, and they really carried us throughout last year. But this year, I think it’s going to take a greedier [attitude]. No game is going to come easy for the rest of the season. Every game, we have to play like we did in the second and third period at Dartmouth, with passion, character and intensity.
Q: Throughout this season, head coach Keith Allain ’80 has been experimenting with different lineups. Do you think that has affected the way the team plays?
A: I don’t think changing the lines affect too much. At the Dartmouth game, we changed the lineup before the game, and then the second and third period were just a yard sale, basically everybody played with everybody. I think it’s good for the team… and improves chemistry. I don’t think anyone ever complains. Ultimately, it’s a team effort and everyone just wants to win.
Q: The season is coming to a close now. What’s the team’s goal for the rest of the year and the ECAC postseason tournament?
A: Our goal is still extremely high. We still have eight games left and those are a lot of wins on the table. We are not going to look too far ahead, and we are going to take it one win at a time. We still have the same goal as day one, and that’s to win championships
Q: Last question: You’re a New York Jets fan, so who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl?
A: As a Jets fan and given my hatred for the Patriots, I’m going to have to go with the Giants.