Courtesy of Yale Athletics

Brian O’Neill ’12 and Kenny Agostino ’14 will represent the United States on the men’s hockey team at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The pair are some of the most highly skilled forwards to play for the Bulldogs and will don the stars and stripes at the Winter Olympics after the National Hockey League barred its players from participating due to COVID-19 concerns. O’Neill will play a vital role for the team as the only player on the roster with Olympic experience, having played for the U.S. in 2018, posting one goal and three assists in five games.

A native of Yardley, Pennsylvania, O’Neill has the second-most career points in Yale history with 163 in 138 appearances. He also earned All-American honors during his senior year. Since graduating from Yale in 2012, O’Neill has played professional hockey in both the American Hockey League (AHL) and the NHL. During the 2014-15 season, he was named MVP of the AHL for his performances with the Manchester Monarchs. This season, O’Neill is playing for Jokerit Helsinki of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), where he is 11th in the league in points with 42 points in 41 games. 

“I’m definitely much more comfortable entering these games compared to 2018. Obviously, there are a lot more obstacles to face this time around due to COVID-19, but having some prior experience will be a big help, mentally,” O’Neill said in an interview with Hockey Royalty. “From a hockey standpoint, my game is in a better place than it was in 2018. So, I’m really looking forward to helping the team in any way possible.”

Agostino, meanwhile, will be making his first Olympic appearance in Beijing. Similarly to O’Neill, Agostino traded the American hockey leagues for the KHL last year, and is now turning out for Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo where he is 14th in the league with 40 points in 46 games.

Agostino, who is from Flanders, New Jersey, has played 86 career games in the NHL for six different teams. He was also a major player in the Bulldogs’ 2012-13 season that saw Yale bring home its first and only national championship in program history.

The U.S. national team roster is made up of 15 players playing in the NCAA for nine different teams, eight players in European leagues and two from the AHL. Six of the players on the team, including O’Neill and Agostino, have played in the NHL before.

“A proud moment for all the universities who have guys representing this team … it’s a testament to how far USA hockey has come in the last 10 years,” U.S. men’s national team head coach David Quinn, who formerly coached the NHL’s New York Rangers, said. 

The U.S. will play in Group A for the preliminary round. The group includes a powerhouse Canada team, as well as China and Germany.

On Feb. 12, the U.S. and Canada will meet in one of the most highly anticipated games of the tournament as the teams jockey for positioning in the group in order to advance to the knockout rounds. 

Along with O’Neill and Agostino, Phoebe Staenz ’17 will represent her native Switzerland on their Olympic women’s hockey team. 2022 will mark her third Olympic appearance after posting three goals and one assist in Pyeongchang and two goals and a bronze medal in Sochi. As a Bulldog, the forward was named ECAC rookie of the year for the 2013-14 season. Staenz is currently skating for Leksands IF in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League and has nine goals and 21 points in 26 games played.

“This is our Olympic team and we are going there to represent our country … I think that it is a time of opportunity and this is what this game is made of,” U.S. Olympic team general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said. “To be known as an Olympian is a big time thing.”

The U.S. men’s hockey team will play its first game on Feb. 10 against China.

Spencer King is an Editor for the Sports desk. He has covered the Yale football and women's ice hockey teams. He has also previously covered the Yale men's lacrosse team and most things Bulldogs sports. Spencer is a junior in Davenport College and is majoring in Political Science.