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FUTURE WATCH | Growing gains

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Zach Nagelvoort. Photo by Dennis Pajot

As the saying goes, a watched pot never boils. It should also be noted that when you stop paying attention, that’s when the pot will overflow.

Fortunately, in June 2014, Zach Nagelvoort, goaltender for the University of Michigan Wolverines, wasn’t scrambling to clean up a mess of water, but was trying to tame the insurmountable number of messages that flooded his phone.

“I got so many [messages] all at once that it froze,” he said.

Nagelvoort, who joined his dad for their annual father-son golf getaway, decided not to attend the 2014 NHL Draft and was going to do what he could to try and distract himself for the weekend.

“I had no idea when I was going to be picked, or if I was going to be picked at all, [and if so] I knew I was going to be a later round guy,” he said. “My dad and I usually do a golf outing together, at least once a summer, and it just so happened that I got to go with him that year during the draft. So I figured that would be a nice way to keep my mind off of what was going on and not think about it and see where everything fell.”

Nagelvoort’s let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may attitude left him in utter disbelief when he finally received word he had been selected, letting out what can only be described as an exasperated gasp.

“It was actually pretty funny, I remember I made some noise, I was just — I can’t even remember what it was, I was just surprised,” he said. “It was right in the middle of my dad’s backswing and he shanked his drive and he looked over at me and he was all angry, and I was just like, ‘Dad, I was just drafted.’ It was a pretty cool moment.”

Selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the fourth round, 111th overall, it was hard work that was finally paying off for the 20-year-old, who can remember when at one time he couldn’t wait to be rotated in net during his youth-hockey days.

“I was always really excited about it, like most people, I was excited about the gear and wearing the goalie pads,” he said.

Now, playing for the University of Michigan, the team he grew up supporting most of his young life — thanks to his grandparents who had season tickets — a new kind of excitement has washed over Nagelvoort and the team, who are celebrating their first-ever Big Ten Tournament title and No. 2 seed they acquired heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Photo supplied.

With a 12-5-3-2 conference record, Michigan beat Penn State (7-2) and overcame Minnesota (5-3) with a third-period comeback to earn its first conference tournament title in the Big Ten.

“We’ve been kind of a third-period team all year,” said Nagelvoort. “We’ve scored so much that we’ve found a way to — whether we’re down, or whether we’re tied — we’ve always found a way to blow up in the third period and [score] two or three [goals].”

As the game unfolded, that’s exactly what happened. Trailing 3-2 after 40 minutes of hockey, Nagelvoort said there was what could be described as an unspoken synchronized plan among the team.

“Between the second and third period, in the locker room — whereas in years past, there’s been a feeling of ‘I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do this’ —there was kind of just an air of confidence around the team. We knew we had to come back from that many goals, or more, in the past. So there was just kind of a feeling where we have to go out and have a Michigan hockey period and we’ll be able to come out on top, and that’s what ended up happening.”

Coming off its Big Ten Tournament title, the Wolverines posted a 24-7-5 overall record. This season's NCAA Tournament bid is the 36th in U-M history, an NCAA record, and the first since 2012.

Michigan will take on No. 3 seed Notre Dame, who posted a 19-10-7 overall record, in a Midwest Regional semi-final on March 25.

The game could be considered a long overdue redemption game for Michigan. The two teams have met once before in the tournament, with the Fighting Irish earning a 5-4 overtime win in a 2008 Frozen Four semi-final contest. However, Nagelvoort said that it no longer seems to be the case.

“I actually haven’t played against Notre Dame since I’ve been at Michigan because we switched over to the Big Ten Conference when I got here,” he said, referring to the 2010-11 conference realignment that saw several conference expansion and reduction plans among various NCAA conferences and institutions.

In 2011, it was announced that U-M would have their membership in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) transferred to the Big Ten in 2013, while Notre Dame would be moved to the Hockey East Conference.

Photo by Richard T Gagnon

“I know back in the CCHA days [Michigan versus Notre Dame] was a bigger rivalry,” he said. “For me I can’t really comment on it. But I know, obviously, they’re known for being a very well respected program. They produce a lot of high-end talent, so I know it’s going to be a good game.”

Friday's game will pit the former CCHA rivals against each other as it will mark the 134th time Michigan and Notre Dame have played in a series that dates back to 1923. Michigan has a 74-54-5 record against the Fighting Irish.

Though it has been a season of tremendous success for the U-M hockey team, it’s been a challenging one for Nagelvoort, as it saw him split game action with fellow goalie Steve Racine.

“I think what I have learned and what I’m still learning — what I’m sure I’ll be learning for the next few years — is that just finding a way to be mentally consistent no matter what’s happening on the ice, any given day, is what’s biggest for me in my game, and I think a lot of other goalies would agree with that.”

It’s been a new experience for Nagelvoort who, in his freshman year, stepped into the role as starting goaltender. Nagelvoort garnered a .929 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average that season, posting an 11-9-3 record in 24 games.

During his sophomore season, Nagelvoort shared time with Racine, posting similar numbers that saw him finish the year 11-9-0 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.

Racine earned the majority of starts this season, as Nagelvoort went 5-2-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. He views this season as a humbling experience and one that has allowed him to enhance his mental game on top of the physical requirements it demands.

“It’s a first-time thing for me… to not be the guy who’s playing every night,” he said. “I think humbling is definitely one word for it… I don’t feel like I ever got too [over-confident], and I would never use a word like complacent, but it makes you realize you still have a lot of work left to do and your game really is never done growing.”

That’s not to say Nagelvoort hasn’t stepped up when his team needed him, serving as a reliable and steady netminder when taking over the reins.

“Unfortunately, being in the spot that I am, you can’t really measure yourself on a regular basis because you’re not playing every Friday and Saturday night,” he admits.

Photo by Getty Images

“But… the opportunities that I have been thrown in there, I feel that I’ve stepped up to the occasion and I’ve done well and I’ve given my team the opportunity to either turn the game around or continue to find a way to win that night.”

The Oilers goaltending prospect has continued to navigate his learning curve with help from Steve Shields, the Wolverines goalie coach, and Racine, that will hopefully transfer over into his senior year next season, where he may once again take on the role as starting goaltender.

“Having the opportunity to play under Steve [Racine] this year has given me the chance to grow my game a lot,” said Nagelvoort. “I feel that I’m in the position that, coming in next year with a bunch of young goalies behind me, that I’ll be able to be that guy for them.”

Statistics For In The System Through Past Seasons: 14-15 | 13-14 | 12-13 | 11-12
Stats Updated as of Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bakersfield (AHL) - Forwards


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
GREG CHASE C 20 19 1 6 7 +3 25
BRADEN CHRISTOFFER LW 21 30 1 3 4 -11 57
JOSH CURRIE* C 23 44 5 8 13 -1 42
LEON DRAISAITL C 20 6 1 1 2 -5 4
MATTHEW FORD*   RW 31 53 25 21 46 +1 54
LUKE GAZDIC   LW 26 11 1 2 3 +1 6
RYAN HAMILTON   LW 30 55 20 12 32 -4 41
KELLEN JONES*   LW 25 12 1 2 3 0 6
ZACK KASSIAN   RW 24 7 2 1 3 0 16
KALE KESSY   LW 23 49 7 5 12 +3 77
JUJHAR KHAIRA   LW 21 38 10 16 26 +8 52
ROB KLINKHAMMER   LW 29 21 13 8 21 -1 32
ALEXIS LOISEAU*   C 21 12 1 2 3 +1 2
ANDREW MILLER   RW/C 27 44 15 24 39 +3 18
MITCH MOROZ   LW 21 35 3 5 8 +4 90
PHILIP MCRAE* C 25 27 5 3 8 +1 14
IIRO PAKARINEN   RW 24 4 1 2 3 0 4
TYLER PITLICK   RW 24 33 7 14 21 0 4
KYLE PLATZER RW 20 40 5 10 15 -4 18
MARC-OLIVIER ROY* C 21 33 6 4 10 -2 14
ANTON SLEPYSHEV LW 21 38 10 7 17 -13 20
JOSH WINQUIST*   LW 22 28 8 18 26 -6 32
BOGDAN YAKIMOV   C/W 21 25 4 8 12 -3 8
DANIIL ZHARKOV (INJURED)
LW 21 - - - - - -
Bakersfield (AHL) - Defencemen


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER   d 21 6 0 1 1 -2 7
MARK FAYNE   d 28 4 0 1 1 0 4
brad hunt   D 27 47 10 27 37 +5 18
JOEY LALEGGIA   D 23 52 7 16 23 +11 36
DAVID MUSIL D 22 56 3 10 13 +2 35
NIKITA NIKITIN   D 29 30 1 13 14 -9 0
DARNELL NURSE   D 20 6 0 1 1 0 7
JORDAN OESTERLE   d 23 42 3 20 23 -1 8
NICK PAGEAU*   D 27 16 0 3 3 -6 4
GRIFFIN REINHART   D 21 27 2 7 9 +2 14
DILLON SIMPSON
D 22 46 2 13 15 +5 20
Norfolk (ECHL)


Name POS age    GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER D 21 49 3 14 17 -2 53
GREG CHASE F 20 35 16 15 31 -1 44
Canadian Hockey League
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
CALEB JONES  D 18 72 10 45 55 +4 64 PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS (WHL)
ETHAN BEAR  D 18 69 19 46 65 +14 33 SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS (WHL)
NCAA & USHL
Name POS age  GP G A   P +/- PIM team
EVAN CAMPBELL   LW 22 28 5  7 12 +4 16 UMASS-LOWELL (NCAA)
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 27 2 5 7 -6 26 UMASS-AMHERST (NCAA)
JOHN MARINO d 18 49 3 24 27 +14 43 TRI-CITY (USHL)
AIDAN MUIR LW 20 35 2 6 8 -17 20 WESTERN MICHIGAN (NCAA)
TYLER VESEL   C 21 35 6 12 18 +1 2 NEBRASKA-OMAHA (NCAA)
Europe
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
ROMAN HORAK C 24 57 15 12 27 -9 32 CHEKHOV (KHL)
ZIYAT PAIGIN  F 20 37 9 18 27 +3 8 SOCHI (KHL)
  8 0 1 1 +2 2 KAZAN (KHL)
ANTTI TYRVAINEN  F 26 19 5 3 8 +3 22 FARJESTADS BK KARLSTAD (Sweden)
  13 5 1 6 +1 53 ILVES TAMPERE (finland)
BOGDAN YAKIMOV C 21 11 3 1 4 0 2 Nizhnekamsk (KHL)
2016 World Junior Hockey Championships
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 7 2 1 3 +7 4 SWEDEN
Goaltenders
Name age GP w l T GAA SV% team
KEVEN BOUCHARD   19 20 7 6 4 3.35 .883 MONCTON WILDCATS (qmjHL)
  21 4 13 2 3.97 .872 baie-comeau (qmjHL)
LAURENT BROSSOIT 22 28 15 9 3 2.69 .919 bakersfield (AHL)
EETU LAURIKAINEN 22 13 5 7 0 3.32 .904 BAKERSFIELD (AHL)
8 3 5 0 2.16 .920 HPK HAMEENLINNA (FINLAND)
NIKLAS LUNDSTROM 23 3 1 0 2 3.85 .878 bakersfield (ahl)
13 8 3 0 2.92 .929 ELMIRA (ECHL)
4 1 1 0 2.75 .901 CHICAGO (AHL)
ZACH NAGELVOORT   21 11 5 2 1 2.99 .893 michigan (ncaa)
MIROSLAV SVOBODA   20 1 0 1 0 6.00 .750 TRINEC OCELARI (CZECH)
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