Michigan road trips filled with bonding and memories
Road trips with the No. 20 Michigan hockey team consist of visits to new arenas, games against former teammates and simply “being on the road with the boys.”
Senior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort remembers many moments throughout his history of road trips and roommates with the Wolverines. His most memorable moment, though, occurred when he roomed with former Michigan goaltender and then-senior Adam Janecyk during the 2013-14 season. Nagelvoort saw Janecyk as a role model, especially as the two shared Western Michigan roots, with Janecyk hailing from Grand Rapids and Nagelvoort from Holland.
“I don’t remember where we were (on the road) … and I didn’t know him super well, and I had statistics homework,” Nagelvoort said Monday. “And so I’m trying to do it, and I’m buried in it. I just could not understand it, so I brought him over. I’m expecting that (since) he’s a senior, he’ll give me some pointers. Well, he just kinda looked at it, and he says ‘Dude, this might as well be Chinese.’ ”
Though Janecyk couldn’t help Nagelvoort with his homework assignment, he grew as a role model in the Wolverines’ system. Every road trip, all of the team’s roommate pairings consist of one upperclassman and one underclassman. The older player ensures that his younger counterpart remains focused during the trip and arrives promptly for mealtime and the pre-game skate.
Junior forward Cutler Martin roomed with sophomore defenseman Joseph Cecconi last season and now splits time on the road with Cecconi and freshman forward Steven Merl. Last year, Martin and Cecconi bonded over their shared nap schedule.
“Every guy likes to nap different amounts,” Martin said. “Some guys like to go a couple of hours, some guys like to go 30 minutes. Chico and I like to lie down for an hour and a half, at least, to get ready for the game and make sure we get ready to go. (There’s) not too much laughing when we wake up and walk down to the bus to go to the games.”
As goaltenders, Nagelvoort and his roommate, freshman Hayden Lavigne, their perspective is slightly different from the rest of the team.
“Whichever guy is not starting, (he’s) going to do pretty much whatever it is to make that guy (who’s starting) comfortable,” Nagelvoort said. “So if he likes to nap for three and a half hours, then you’re quiet for three and a half hours. If he only likes 30 minutes of napping and wants to talk for a little while, or keep it light. (Lavigne) did that for me in Arizona. When he’s playing, I’m sure it’ll be the exact opposite.”
Added freshman goaltender Jack LaFontaine: “Everyone has their own superstitions and stuff, and so everyone has a little bit of respect. You know not to talk to a certain guy, don’t wake him up at this specific time. Lavigne’s not the weirdest goalie (I’ve roomed with). He’s not going to be doing weird stuff at 4 a.m. I’ve had some pretty weird roommates in this past, so it’s a breath of a fresh air to room with these guys.”
For Michigan coach Red Berenson, his decision to pair roommates in this way stems from his days as a player at Michigan. He remembers rooming with older teammates as a young player and likewise tried to pass on the knowledge he gained when he was a senior.
And these roommate pairings could lead to on-ice success as well.
“It helps get to know each other as people,” Berenson said. “There’s no question. And you have a good relationship with them, you can communicate better with them, you can critique each other better and you can be closer together as a unit on the ice. We’ve got 11 freshmen on our team. We need the upperclassmen to appreciate what kind of people these guys are. They’re not just hockey players, they’re not just freshmen, they’re good people. And I think the more you can respect someone as a person, the more you get to know them, the more you’ll appreciate them on the ice, too.”
As the players can attest, though, success isn’t only about the on-ice chemistry.
“Road trips are so weird because you’re together but you spend a ton of time just in your hotel room,” Nagelvoort said. “There is a lot of downtime. Hayden’s a studious guy, probably more studious than I’ve ever been.
“If we’re not hanging out and talking or watching movies, then he’s buried in a book or something like that. He’s been a good guy to room with. The focus is on keeping it light with the two of us.”
Lavigne and Nagelvoort’s chemistry shows Berenson’s success in creating these roommate pairings. Often, Berenson will find a team leader and place an anxious freshman with him. After a few weeks, as the young player becomes more comfortable, he will give the senior another mentee. On last year’s team, JT Compher served in this mentor position. This season, it is senior defenseman and captain Nolan de Jong, who, according to Berenson, “walks the talk” on and off the ice.
As the Wolverines prepare to travel to State College to face No. 7 Penn State, the elder players will ensure prompt practice attendance — 20 minutes early, as Luce says — and concentration on the games ahead. For Nagelvoort, though, it is imperative that the team stay occupied on the trip.
“We’re there to play two hockey games,” Nagelvoort said. “I get it, that’s obviously the focus of the time there. But I’m totally subscribed to the theory that you can’t only be thinking about that the entire time, otherwise you’re going to drive yourself nutty, especially as a goalie.”