For most freshmen, the start of college can be a phase when they might not know anyone at the University. The overall adjustment takes some time.
For most freshman athletes, joining a new team takes some adjustment as well.
But for Chad Catt, the Michigan hockey team’s freshman goaltender, the story is a little different. For one, he is 21 years old and hasn’t taken a class in two and a half years.
“I’m the oldest possible freshman,” Catt joked.
But that’s not all. Catt is also familiar with much of the team, having played with many of his new teammates at various levels of junior hockey. In 2009, Catt played with former Wolverine Andrew Copp and junior forward Max Shuart, and they won a national championship with Detroit Compuware.
As Catt grew older, he ran into more current Michigan players, especially at Victory Honda U-18, where he teamed up with five current Wolverines including Shuart, sophomore forwards Alex Talcott, Niko Porikos and Tony Calderone and sophomore defenseman Cutler Martin.
Catt’s familiarity with most of the team also provides him with many resources who have gone through his current transition, which has made it easier for Catt to find his way at Michigan.
“The guys told me everything from just moving into the dorms, to knowing where classes are and to knowing how practices are organized,” Catt said. “It was nice to be able to talk to the guys over the summer. I came here for a couple skates over the summer, too, so that was nice to see the guys.”
But one of the most important junior hockey connections Catt has is with his goaltending counterpart, junior netminder Zach Nagelvoort. The two played together for a short period of time for the Aberdeen Wings, a Tier II junior hockey team that plays in the North American Hockey League. However, their ties go back even further than their days at Aberdeen.
“We grew up facing each other in Detroit,” Nagelvoort said. “I don’t think we ever played with each other in youth hockey, but we knew each other well as the guy on the other side of the ice.
“I knew he was coming from the USHL, so when I got traded (to Aberdeen) I had heard that Chad might be there, so that would be kind of interesting. But coming in and him being from the state of Michigan, we knew each other pretty well.”
For the two goaltenders, the prior connection has helped them gel a lot faster than most veterans and freshman, and it has helped the two get straight to business instead of the formalities that come with a new season.
“We had a good relationship at Aberdeen,” Nagelvoort said. “I think I played three or four more games than him there, but it was a pretty good working relationship. I got to jump right past that because I know Chad really well, and I knew what kind of kid he was and that coming in he was going to work his bag off and push me everyday, so I’d have to do the same.”
While Catt may be older than the majority of the undergraduate population at Michigan, his time in Ann Arbor is just starting. With a plethora of old teammates here, he isn’t just any old freshman.