D’Agostino’s leadership and assertiveness were never a question for the Lynah Faithful. His first collegiate game was against the Purple Eagles of Niagara. Surprisingly, for a team that would later earn Cornell the appellation of “the dream-crushing, soul-devouring juggernaut,” the Purple Eagles looked poised to dampen the early-season successes of a team that in retrospect seems an all-but-inevitable ECAC Championship team.
Niagara tied the game in the waning minutes of the third period. The clock had marked more than three minutes of overtime before a quite serendipitous series of events occurred. D’Agostino had stayed on the ice for a very long shift (a fact that now seems blasé to most of the Faithful, but at the time was very impressive for a freshman). He saw the crucial opening play develop before him and made a crisp pass to then-captain Colin Greening who directed the puck to then-junior Joe Devin. Cornell claimed victory in the opening-game of the 2009-10 season with play from now nearly legendary captain Colin Greening with future captains Joe Devin and Nick D’Agostino. It seems all but preordained in retrospect that D’Agostino would join their ranks as a leader who wears the “C” for Cornell.
D’Agostino is an intimidating and dominating defenseman. So, it may seem at first glance to be odd to highlight his offensive contributions to the program when discussing his countless successes. Teams who opposed D’Agostino in the 2009-10 made his presence felt and developed a reputation as one of the most successful defenseman in the ECAC. A descriptor whose scope D’Agostino has made relevant to a national stage in his sophomore and junior seasons.
Clogging passing lanes and blocking shots became a thing for which the Lynah Faithful could depend upon D’Agostino at the end of his freshman campaign. He became as reliable and effective of a defenseman as then-senior blueliners Joe Scali and Justin Krueger, the eventual winner of the ECAC’s Hockey Defenseman of the Year Award in 2010. Rivaling Scali in shots blocked and Krueger in terms of effectiveness was impressive for a freshman defenseman. D’Agostino has gotten only better since then.
D’Agostino ranks fifth in terms of points produced per game of those players returning from the 2011-12 season. His production of 0.59 points per game is particularly impressive considering the Lynah Faithful can breathe particularly easy when he is on the ice knowing that offensive opportunities for the opposition will be extremely poor and very limited.
The greatest trait that D’Agostino has developed over his three seasons on East Hill is the trait that makes him best suited to serve as captain as Cornell seeks to reach new heights on the college hockey landscape. D’Agostino becomes whatever Cornell needs him to be in a given situation.
Few players have shown such versatility and even fewer are able to do it so seemingly effortlessly as Nick D’Agostino. The team awarded D’Agostino the privilege and responsibility of wearing an “A” as an alternate captain his junior season. He rose to the challenge of wearing the mantle of formal leadership.
A skilled but still young freshman class joined the ranks of the Big Red in Fall 2011. D’Agostino took charge of leading the program including these freshmen during the early games of the 2011-12 season. Not unexpectedly, D’Agostino occupied central roles on the power-play and penalty-kill units for the Big Red. It was the poise that he demonstrated that began the tidal wave of success that propelled Cornell to the 2012 NCAA Midwest Regional Final. The alternate captain quarterbacked the power-play unit with great skill. His ultimate tally of eight goals from last campaign included six that were earned on the power play.
This was but one of many ways that the Ontario-native blueliner showed his leadership in becoming what and who Cornell needed him to be. The most recognizable example of this trait is his ability to seize a given opportunity, convert upon it, and then transition effortlessly in employing his considerable defensive skills over several long shifts to protect a lead.
The striking statistical manifestation of this is found in D’Agostino’s number of game-winning goals. D’Agostino’s impressive total of five game-winning goals from last season placed him sixth nationally in that category. He was not only pivotal in gaining such leads but in defending those leads once earned in most of the contests in which he tallied for that statistic. He will be even more crucial to the success that he has envisioned for Cornell during his last campaign in carnelian and white.
The 2010-11 season saw Cornell heavily in a rebuilding year after the departure of a very talented senior class. Cornell had swept Harvard with four victories during the 2009-10 season. Needless to say, our rivals in Crimson were upset when a stellar Andy Iles delivered a stunning performance to defend a 2-1 lead through three periods of play.
The cantankerous Cantabs were very displeased with the result. Unable to contain their displeasure, they took it out on the Cornell players on the ice after the last whistle. Cheap shots and punches were thrown from Harvard at Cornell. The Harvard announcers on the broadcast can be heard noting that Harvard started the altercation. D’Agostino, unable to abate his overwhelming desire to defend his teammates from such unsportsmanlike violence, leapt from Cornell’s bench onto the ice to assist his teammates in whatever manner that he could.
Even though the Lynah Faithful and WAFT do not condone such behavior or laud it, one must respect D’Agostino’s willingness to sacrifice for his team and defend it against such deplorable behavior. D’Agostino per NCAA rules was awarded a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during an on-ice altercation. His alacrity in sacrificing everything against the Harvard Crimson received particular recognition at the end of last season.
D’Agostino was awarded the Crimson Cup. The Cup is presented to the player who stood out most during Cornell’s games against its most hated foe in a given season. D’Agostino contributed two goals against the Crimson in Cornell’s November 2011 meeting against them and then an assist in the last regular-season meeting of the two archrivals. His two goals against the Crimson at Bright last season can be seen in the above video. These impressive contributions earned D’Agostino this award unquestionably, but his career performance against the Crimson may deserve him yet another title.
In every generation there is a chosen Cornell player, he almost seemingly alone stands against the Crimson and their hopes of success. He is “the Crimson Killer.”
D’Agostino is this generation’s “Crimson Killer.” His performance against the Cantabs is noteworthy for even a player as skilled as he. In three years, D’Agostino has tallied nine points against the Crimson. This total includes five goals. Two of those five goals were the game-winning goal in the contest. He opened the scoring against Harvard in the 2010 ECAC Quarterfinal series against Harvard at Lynah Rink with an assist to Colin Greening. An assist was not enough for this era’s “Crimson Killer” as he felt compelled to tally two goals within twenty minutes before the time expired. This offensive outburst propelled Cornell to claim the only 4-0 season sweep in the history of the 102 year-old Cornell-Harvard rivalry. Cornell has gone 6-2-1 against the Crimson since D’Agostino donned a carnelian and white sweater. His ability to elevate his game in what is typically the regular season’s most emotionally charged game augments his ability to become or do whatever Cornell needs.
Nick D’Agostino is foremost a leader for Cornell. That is clear from offensive and defensive statistics as well as conduct on the ice. He will ask of no one any more than he is willing to do himself. His long shifts that he began as a freshman? They have gone nowhere. If anything, they have lengthened as his resolve to help his team in any way possible as increased.
D’Agostino is the best defenseman in the ECAC. He is one of the best defensemen in the nation. He will have the opportunity to claim the latter title outright this season. While other defensemen in the ECAC may gain more preseason acclaim, if one delves deeper into their statistics and contributions, it is discernible that they sacrifice defensive accountability and contributions for the glory of goal scoring. D’Agostino, unlike them, is not just a forward behind the blue line. He is a reliable and skilled defenseman who does what his team needs to win and never sacrifices the benefit of the team for personal goal-scoring glory. He is the best defenseman in the nation at both ends of the ice.
There is no better player to lead Cornell into a rigorous 2012-13 schedule than Nick D’Agostino. He has shown leadership qualities since he first stepped on the ice at Lynah Rink. His season is off to a great start already as he has totaled two assists in just 60 minutes of an exhibition game in the tilt against the United States Under-18 Development Program.
His offensive and defense skill sets as well as his undeniable and integral leadership will help propel Cornell to the pinnacle of the college hockey world yet again. D’Agostino’s willingness to do what is necessary to assist his team and to become what his team needs in a moment’s notice should allow the Lynah Faithful to rest assured that success will come this season. The cap’n will make it happ’n.