Michigan freshman Chad Kolarik has a whole lot in common with his older brother, Tyler, and it’s not just their last name. For instance, the two also share the same birthday, but Tyler is older by five years.
“It’s kind of cool,” Tyler said. “I’ll never forget his birthday.”
And in his first season at Michigan, Chad tallied 13 goals and 15 assists in conference play — the same totals that Tyler put up in his first season at Harvard four years ago. The older brother was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2000 NHL draft and now plays for the Dayton Bombers, a minor league affiliate of the Blue Jackets.
The two siblings talk on the phone regularly, and Tyler makes a point to call his brother every once in a while just to catch up. Most recently, Tyler called when he sprained his MCL earlier this month. Now, he’s spending his days in rehab for his knee. At first, he thought he might be able to make the trip up to Detroit this weekend to watch his younger brother play in the CCHA Super 6. But, unfortunately, his rehab is going to keep him in Dayton, Ohio.
But that’s okay. The two brothers have watched each other play plenty of times. When Chad was younger, he used to make the trip up to Cambridge, Mass., to watch Tyler play. And Tyler was even in Dayton for the Lefty McFadden tournament, Michigan’s first series of the year.
“I saw him score his first collegiate goal against (Boston University),” Tyler said. “That was awesome.”
Tyler was also important in one of Chad’s most difficult decisions, coming to school at Michigan. Tyler who had made the tough college decision just a few years before and had some insight for is brother. And despite Chad’s love for football, his brother insisted that his advice had nothing to do with the Big House.
“He told me to ‘Go where you want to go; go where you always think you want to go,’ ” Chad said. “I came for the official visit, and it was just like, ‘Hail to the Victors,’ and it gave me chills.”
Chad is convinced now that he made the right choice, even if his mom is disappointed that he’s so far away from his Abington, Penn., home. But, on a team with 10 seniors and only two freshmen, he didn’t expect the transition to be as easy as it has been. He said that the seniors on the team invite him and his roommate out when they aren’t going to the bars, and the sophomores often invite the two of them over to their place just to hang out.
“When I was envisioning college, I always thought the freshmen were always supposed to be left out, but the guys on the team are great guys,” Chad said. “I never thought that I would be included in everything.”
His roommate, fellow freshman Kevin Porter, has helped to make the transition to college an easy one. The two were teammates on the U.S. National Team Development Program, based out of Ann Arbor. They were also both drafted into the NHL last year by the same team, the Phoenix Coyotes. Porter was drafted in the fourth round and Kolarik was picked in the seventh. Kolarik said that the two freshmen really push each other on and off the ice. They are in three of the same classes, and Kolarik said that his roommate helps him get to class when he’s tired. He also looks forward to the possibility of moving up through the Coyotes organization with Porter.
“We just get along so well,” Kolarik said. “And to have a lifelong friend there with you in Phoenix when you are trying out for the team will definitely be an easier adjustment rather than going in by yourself.”
But for now, his focus is all on Michigan. In conference play, he tallied a point per game, and he managed to improve as the season progressed — something that, Kolarik said, used to be his weakness. And even as a freshman on a team full of seniors, Kolarik leads the team in both power play goals and game-winners.
“(The pucks) always bounce my way in overtime or bounce my way late in the game,” Kolarik said about his natural talent. “But some of the game-winners I have this year have been like 10-1 games where I scored the second goal. I guess it’s just luck.”