With 11 seniors returning from a team that was one win away from
the Frozen Four last year, the Michigan hockey team has few holes
to fill.

That didn’t stop the Wolverines from picking up a pair of
top-notch forwards, Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter, from the nearby
U.S. National Developmental program.

“You can never have too much offense,” associate
head coach Mel Pearson said. “I think we recruited both of
them with the thought that they would come in and add something to
our team.”

What Michigan will add is a duo that has become accustomed to
being paired together.

Both spent two years playing for the U.S. National Developmental
Program in Ann Arbor, where they attended high school together and
became friends.

In their first year with the national team they were first and
second on the team in scoring.

Now, they are both coming to Michigan, where they will be the
only incoming freshmen on the team.

“We both came (to the U.S. Developmental program) at the
same time and became really good friends,” Kolarik said.
“It’s definitely developed now that we’ve both
committed (to Michigan.) We probably could end up spending the next
20 years of our lives together.”

Aside from his friendship with Porter, Kolarik was drawn to
Michigan by a common experience among recruits considering becoming
Wolverines — a trip to the Big House.

“On my first recruiting trip, I actually went to a
football game and I heard ‘Hail to the Victors’, and it
just gave me the chills,” Kolarik said. “From that
point on, I knew it was right.”

This past month, both were drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in the
NHL draft. While Porter was tabbed in the fourth round, Kolarik
went in the seventh. Porter attended the draft, while Kolarik was
unaware that they had been drafted by the same team.

“He was the first one to call me actually and tell me that
I had been drafted by Phoenix,” Kolarik said. “I guess
before they drafted me they asked him about me and he said a few
good things. It was funny.”

Despite the tendency to lump them together, each has their own
style and identity when they step on the ice.

“Porter is more of an all-around forward. He’s a
very good playmaker, a good skater and very hard working,”
Pearson said. “Porter might be like a player we had years ago
named Kevin Hilton. His goals-to-assists ratio was more assists
than goals. Kevin Hilton could play in every situation and
it’s a lot like Kevin Porter. He can play in any situation
and be successful.”

In contrast, Kolarik sees himself more as offensive-minded
forward with penchant for goal-scoring.

“My strengths are speed, quickness, offensive ability and
goal-scoring,” Kolarik said. “I need to work on my
defense, but that’s my game.”

In the past, Michigan has been put in a position, often by
players leaving school early for the NHL, where freshmen have been
given opportunities to shine. With so many returning players,
Porter and Kolarik may find it hard to find the ice right away.

“I’m just hoping to be in the lineup,” Kolarik
said. “They have a really good team coming back so it’s
going to be an uphill battle.”

Despite the competition, Pearson believes that these two young
forwards will come in and push their new teammates for ice
time.

“We think (Porter) is going to be a high-end player for
us, even though we have a good number of returning players,”
Pearson said. “But he’ll push some people for spots,
either on the powerplay or on one of the top two scoring lines.
Chad had a bit of a down year last year, but I expect him to come
in and contribute for us. Both of them should come right in and
give us some more offense.”

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