The Michigan hockey team made some noise Thursday, and this time with some positive news, picking up a goalie for next season when Zach Nagelvoort committed, while also naming junior Mac Bennett captain for 2013-14.
A 6-2, 210-pounder, Nagelvoort has called both Holland, Mich., and Ann Arbor home, attending Pioneer High School while living with his grandparents as a sophomore and junior. He spent his senior year playing for both the Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings and the Traverse City North Stars of the North American Hockey League and split time between a pair of NAHL clubs again this past season.
It was with the Soo Eagles (18 games) and Aberdeen Wings (10 games) that Nagelvoort blossomed, turning himself into a coveted commodity, and with U-M's troubles in net this season, the Wolverines were actively looking to add talent to the position.
Michigan considered a goalie from Sweden and also scouted Arthur Brey from the United States Hockey League's Dubuque Fighting Saints, but Nagelvoort outshined both, and with his unique connection to the Maize and Blue - his grandfather, Paul W. Gikas, happens to be a friend of Red Berenson's - the 19-year old made the most sense.
"Throughout the year, I heard bits and pieces that Michigan might be interested and then when I ended up in Aberdeen my coach told me [U-M assistant] Brian Wiseman had called and there was a real opportunity," Nagelvoort told TheWolverine.com tonight. "Coach [Billy] Powers came to see me play and they invited me for a visit.
"I was in town over the weekend visiting a friend that's a freshman at Michigan, and then we sat down with the coaches Monday and they laid everything out for me. I took a few days to talk to my family, but it was like, 'Why am I even thinking about this?' Michigan hockey is why I started playing hockey - we had season tickets when I was growing up - and it was always my dream to play for them."
In 28 total contests this past year, Nagelvoort was 17-6-1 with a 2.10 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.
At the moment, Michigan is carrying four goalies (though only freshman Jared Rutledge is on a full-ride scholarship), and there probably isn't room for five (we'll have more on this in Friday's Inside The Fort), but that's a concern for the coaches, not for Nagelvoort.
"Basically, I'm coming in to add competition to what they already have," he said. "It is a position that they're looking for guys to push each other and make the starting goalie the best goalie. They told me they're not saying this guy is the No. 1 and this guy is the No. 2 but that everyone is going to battle to earn their playing time."
Meanwhile, already in Ann Arbor, Bennett is embracing the responsibility that comes with wearing the 'C' on his jersey; U-M also named senior-to-be Derek DeBlois and sophomore-to-be Andrew Copp alternates.
"I'll be honest, after being an alternate this year, I wanted to be the captain," Bennett said. "You don't need a letter to lead, but it's a nice honor. I was at our banquet [April 6] and one of the former players congratulated me and told me to make the alumni proud. That was a really cool and humbling experience."
This past year, Bennett was one of four first-time captains, including departing senior A.J. Treais, who wore the 'C', and it took time for the leadership to rally the team to one common goal. Bennett does not expect that to be an issue next season.
"I found out this year how difficult it is to be a captain, but from that experience I think I'll know how to approach things early in the year, get guys on the same page, and I think we'll be better for it," he said.
It helps that he has a strong supporting cast of hard workers that also blossomed into two of Michigan's best forwards this season.
"I grew up with Derek my entire life [they're from the same city in Rhode Island] and he's an awesome leader in everything he does -- the weight room, the classroom, on the ice, and everyone just likes him," Bennett said.
"With Copp, yeah, he's young, but he plays hard, he plays tough, he competes and you're not going to outwork him. Guys respect that.
"And you look at the way they finished … they were bringing it. Working their butts off, bringing their best night after night and producing. I think that is critical because there are going to be a lot of moments when you need to stand up in the locker room and tell guys they need to pick it up, and if you're not out there playing your best and making an impact, it's difficult to motivate others to do the same.
"But when you are one of the best players on the ice, guys can see that you're not just talking, but that your play backs up what you're saying."