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AHL Veteran Agozzino Enters Postseason as Playoff Rookie

April 15 marked the conclusion of forward Andrew Agozzino’s fifth season competing in the American Hockey League. With 339 regular-season games under his belt, the 26-year-old is an AHL veteran as deemed by having played more than 321 games at the professional level.

However, at the conclusion of his first regular season with the Chicago Wolves, Agozzino has become a rookie again: Participating in the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time.

While Agozzino was no slouch through his first four seasons in the AHL – earning All-Star Game nods while accumulating offensive records and stamping his name throughout the Cleveland/Lake Erie record book – reaching the postseason with the Wolves is just a little bit sweeter.

The club began the season in less than stellar fashion, dropping their first three games and merely breaking even with a .500 finish in each of the first two months of the year.

In December, the Wolves finally found their footing – beginning a season-high eight-game winning streak – and started ascending the Central Division standings. Players like Kenny Agostino – the 2016-17 AHL Most Valuable Player – and Wade Megan – the league’s leading goal scorer – began coming into their own.

And keeping pace with those guys was Agozzino. Through 14 games in the month of December, the 26-year-old averaged almost a point per game and began quietly creeping up the team scoring ranks to finish the season third – behind Agostino and Megan – in team scoring.

“I have a great opportunity to play with some good players like Kenny, ‘Meegs,’ ‘Dunner’ and all kinds of guys on our roster, “ Agozzino said. “Playing with them has helped my game, and I hope I’ve helped their game, as well.”

Agozzino has spent most of the season skating on the Wolves’ top line with Agostino and Megan.

“He’s a hard-working guy, which is always nice to have on your line,” said Megan. “You know he’s going to get in there and work hard in the corners and he’s an unbelievable passer.

“I’ve said this a few times because a few different people have asked me about my season and I’ve said, ‘Look, I try to put myself into a position to score, but you can do that all you want. If you don’t have the puck, it’s not going to make any difference.’

“Agozzino has found me quite often, so I owe a lot of my season to him and the way he can pass the puck.”

When Agozzino isn’t teeing up Megan’s next goal, he’s busy killing penalties.

“I take a lot of pride in killing penalties because it’s a big part of the team game,” Agozzino said. “And on the power play and in overtime, those are moments you want to be a part of so you can make big plays for your team.”

The one-time AHL All-Star is not shy about making those “big” plays, especially during the 3-on-3 overtime frame. Twice he’s come up with the game-winning goal in the extra session, including Saturday’s game against Charlotte that clinched the Central Division title for the Wolves.

Agozzino’s unsung clutch capabilities should serve him – and the Wolves – well in the postseason.

While Agozzino is a little green behind the ears in regard to professional-level playoff hockey, he is no stranger to the postseason. During four of his five seasons with the Niagara IceDogs, Agozzino skated in the Ontario Hockey League Playoffs. And in his overage campaign – serving as team captain – the one-time OHL All-Star helped lead his team to the league championship final.

After rolling through the first three rounds of competition with a 12-3 record, the IceDogs fell to the London Knights, a perennial title contender, four games to one.

With no fairytale ending at the junior level, Agozzino is thrilled for his first opportunity at the pro level and a chance to help the story turn out right.

“When you come in [to the league], you might not realize how hard it is to get to the playoffs,” Agozzino said. “I can see how good our team is and it excites me we’re going to start a hopefully long playoff run.”