This season, left wing Andrew Agozzino and center Alex Friesen have reunited as members of the Chicago Wolves.
Unbeknownst to one another, on July, 2, 2016, the friends and former junior teammates each signed a two-way National Hockey League contract with the St. Louis Blues.
“I found out through a mutual friend,” Agozzino said. “Our buddy texted me the day we both signed to tell me that [Alex] signed with St. Louis and ask me if I had. I thought he was joking, but then I texted Alex and he really had.”
The news came as a pleasant surprise for the 25-year-olds.
“It’s pretty cool,” Friesen said. “We played – for the most part – on the same line for five years, so when we found out we were both coming here we got pretty excited.”
Prior to playing together for the Wolves, Friesen and Agozzino spent five seasons together with the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs.
The duo are the only two players in Niagara franchise history to skate for the IceDogs during the team’s first five seasons – the duration of both Agozzino’s and Friesen’s junior careers – based in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Prior to the start of the 2007-08 season, the club moved from Mississauga – located along the northern coast of Lake Ontario – to St. Catharines nestled along the lake’s southern coast, not far from Niagara Falls.
“St. Catharines is such a strong hockey community,” Agozzino said.
And that sentiment rang true throughout his five years in the city. The community fully supported the IceDogs, selling out games almost every weekend and sporting the team colors – red, white and black – all season long.
In that time, squad set numerous team records. Most of them came during the Agozzino’s and Friesen’s final campaign – 2011-12 – when Niagara set season benchmarks for points (97), wins (47) and goals against (169). During the 2009-10 season, the club scored a franchise-record 191 goals.
The 2011-12 season is widely regarded as the IceDogs’ most successful. Aside from the franchise team records, Niagara made their first appearance in the OHL playoff final – competing for the J. Ross Robertson Cup – against the London Knights. Unfortunately the storybook ending was not to happen as Niagara fell to London in five games.
However, that season is still a fond memory for then-team captain Agozzino – still the longest tenured (2009-12) captain in franchise history – and then-alternate captain Friesen. And, of course, the city.
“We were the talk of the town,” Agozzino recalled. “When we were in the middle of the playoffs, the city buses had ‘Go, Dogs, Go!’ across the sides, and everywhere we went people were buzzing about the team.”
Part of what made that season so great was the chemistry between Agozzino and Friesen – the duo played on the same line three seasons.
That chemistry helped both players cement their places in the Niagara record book. Agozzino is the team’s all-time leading scorer with 159 goals and 147 assists for 306 points through a franchise-record 318 games.
Friesen is second on the all-time games played list (292) and is the franchise leader with 152 assists.
“We played so long together in Niagara that we really got to know each other’s tendencies on the ice,” Friesen said. “There would be certain plays that I would know exactly what he was going to do.”
Though the tandem has not played together consistently in Chicago, they do hope for that chance. Right now, they usually share the ice on special teams or after a partial line change.
Both players also recognize finding the chemistry that allowed Niagara success will take time to rekindle.
“You go out here and you think those plays are happening, but you may be just a little off in timing,” Agozzino said. “Hopefully, if we get some extended time together we can find that success we had.”
By: Jasmine Grotto