IN THE GENES
Geoff Koch Capitalizes on a Lifetime of Hockey
By Nancy Nienstedt, Michigan Hockey Gameday Special Contributor
Sophomore forward Geoff Koch can trace his hockey beginnings to his genes, and not the kind he wears.
His father, Bill, was a standout player at the University of Vermont from 1971-75. The elder Koch set the family standard winning NCAA Division II National Championships in 1973 and 1974 and was Vermont's MVP in 1975, earning a spot in the UV Hall of Fame. As a result, it was not a surprise when he started Geoff playing hockey at the age of 3.
"I don't think I had much choice (of whether or not to play hockey) at age 3," said the younger Koch (pronounced Kotch).
Despite not having much of a choice in the beginning, Koch jumped at the chance to play collegiate hockey, especially knowing what his father did at Vermont.
"I think the chance to play against guys who are three or four years older, much stronger and much more experienced, is a great opportunity," Koch said.
The road to college hockey was not a given as Koch was a multi-sport athlete at Phillips-Exeter Academy. After spending his first two years playing lacrosse, football and hockey, Koch gave up the others to focus on hockey. The intensity and work paid off as several universities were soon asking for a commitment.
Koch looked at playing for Michigan, Boston University, Boston College, Vermont, Clarkson and New Hampshire. Despite the fact that Michigan was the only school not located on the East Coast, Koch decided to visit Ann Arbor and that made all the difference.
"When I came out here, I just fell in love with the whole Michigan atmosphere," said Koch, "from the coaches to the players to the school."
The decision paid off with the last Wolverine goal of the 1998 season. The national championship has been the epitome of his hockey career to this point.
"It was the greatest experience of my life," said Koch. Although it took a while to get into the groove and adjusting to the college game, Koch felt that the transition was successful. "It was an up and down season. It took a little bit of time to settle into the new systems and get a feel for (the team)," said Koch. "Then, as the season progressed, I began to develop (and get into a rhythm)."
Part of the payoff for Koch was the opportunity to play against one of the teams he was interested in and in front of friends and relatives at the Fleet Center in Boston for the national semifinal. In the game against New Hampshire, Koch found the net and scored one of Michigan's four goals to advance to the final game.
"Going back home and scoring a goal against a team I looked at was great," said Koch. "I knew a lot of players on the other team. It was definitely a great feeling."
However, having family and friends in the crowd was the next best thing to winning the championship.
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The Geoff Koch Hockey File
Goal: Nov. 21, 1997 at Bowling Green (Savard)
Assist: Nov. 7, 1997 at Northern Michigan
Point: Nov. 7, 1997 at Northern Michigan
Played at Phillips Exeter Academy before U-M ... member U.S. Select 17 team; MVP of 1996 gold medal game ... NHL rights held by Nashville Predators (1998, third round).
"It was nice to be able to celebrate with them," said Koch. With the start of a new season underway, Koch is ready to get back into the swing of things, and he has set some high goals for himself. "I want to increase my offensive performance and to continue to improve in all the facets of the game," he said.
So far this season, he has not had to worry about the transition into the college game, and that has allowed the season to progress smoother than last. "You definitely have more confidence (after your freshman year)," Koch said.
That confidence has worked its way into the classroom as well. Koch transferred from the Division of Kinesology into the College of Literature, Science and Arts to pursue a degree in business. Sport marketing or advertising is in Koch's future, unless there are other opportunities first.
Last June, Koch was one of four Wolverines drafted in the 1998 National Hockey League Entry Draft. The expansion Nashville Predators selected him in the third round and Koch sees that selection as a tremendous opportunity, but one that is in the future.
"I'm not even thinking about my hockey career or where it is going to take me at this point," Koch said. "I'm just concentrating on this season, the next practice, the next game, and continuing to develop as a player. I have long term goals I obviously want to play professional hockey but I am concentrating on developing as a player this season."
One of the ways Koch is hoping to have a chance to improve presents itself with the U.S. Junior National Team. Koch was scheduled to practice at the summer invitational camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., but suffered a pulled groin muscle and was forced to miss the camp. However, with a strong first half of the Michigan season, Koch has the possibility of participating in a pre-tournament camp in December and earn a spot on the team for the World Junior Championships in Winnipeg, Manitoba, over the University semester break.
"It would be a great opportunity to represent my country," said Koch, "but I am still focused on the season (at Michigan)."
With hockey and school consuming most of Koch's free time, he does make room for relaxation and time to spend with his friends. This summer in New Hampshire a portion of his free time was spent working on his strength and shot, but there was also plenty of time for fishing on Nantucket Island with his friends, something he considers among his favorite hobbies. Also on that list is drawing, a talent he inherited from his mother, June, an art teacher. In fact, mom Koch spent time last season creating a watercolor collage of pictures of her son playing hockey.
From twilight practices as a kid to University of Michigan hockey, Koch has come a long way from the small ponds in Vermont. Through hard work and commitment to the game, Koch has kept a family tradition alive winning a national championship. Now he just needs another to match the accomplishment of his father and leave his mark on the Michigan hockey program.
Contact: Jason Gerdom (734) 763-4423