The only way there is not at least one Penguins prospect playing in front of his hopeful future fans come April 11 is if the Miami Redhawks win the Midwest Regional in Toledo, Ohio. The Midwest features a Pittsburgh farmhand on its other three participating teams.
Two of the other three regional sites, Grand Rapids, Mich. and Manchester, N.H., boast one Pittsburgh pick apiece. Those two along with three heading to Toledo this weekend can be labeled a key cog to their respective program's cause with hardly any hyperbole.
The most recent developments for all five tournament-bound Pens prospects, all of them forwards, are encapsulated as follows.
Kenny Agostino, Yale
Agostino, a hulking winger chosen in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL draft, enters the national dance on a two-game pointless skid, but so do the rest of the Bulldogs. Yale brooked a 5-0 shutout via Union in the ECAC semifinals and a 3-0 loss to in-state rival and national No. 1 seed Quinnipiac in the consolation game.
This will be Agostino’s second NCAA tournament, having previously reached the East Regional final as a freshman in 2011, when Yale lost to the eventual national champions from Minnesota-Duluth. This time, it will be tested by the Minnesota Gophers, who hold the top seed in the West Regional.
Teddy Blueger, Minnesota State
He will try to rekindle his twig in the Midwest Regional when the Mavs battle Miami.
Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud State
Riding a three-game production streak since postseason play began, the captain logged his team’s only goal in the WCHA semifinal, which it lost to Wisconsin, 4-1. Despite missing five of the Huskies’ 39 games, Hanowski is second only to Jonny Brodzinski for the team lead with 16 strikes on the year.
Bryan Rust, Notre Dame
Just like Agostino, Rust is a junior embarking on his second career NCAA tournament, the first of which ended at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth.
Second on the team in each main category with 15 goals, 18 assists and 33 points, Rust came through in the second game of the CCHA quarterfinals to help the Irish punch out Bowling Green State University.
With a power-play goal to break the ice and a penalty shot conversion to break a 2-2 tie, he helped pace Notre Dame to a 4-3 win and a passport to Joe Louis Arena. There, it posted back-to-back 3-1 wins over Ohio State and Michigan to win the last CCHA playoff crown.
Rust and the Irish will test their momentum when they confront Hanowski and the Huskies in the first game of the Midwest Regional on Saturday afternoon.
Scott Wilson, UMass-Lowell
Another conference champion with an even greater clutch touch, Wilson tallied the primary assist on Derek Arnold’s deciding goal in a 1-0 victory over Boston University for the Hockey East pennant. The day prior, he scored the clincher in a come-from-behind, 2-1 semifinal triumph over Providence.
Overall, Wilson is tied with Riley Wetmore for the team lead with 15 goals and second only to Joseph Pendenza with 34 points. Lately, the surging sophomore has percolated a five-game production streak with a 4G, 3A, 7PTS scoring log, including the two aforementioned game-winning points and an assist on the equalizer that forced overtime en route to finishing an HEA quarterfinal sweep of Maine.
Wilson’s Riverhawks confront the WCHA champion Wisconsin Badgers in the Northeast Regional opener this Friday.