Division I was always Nick Carretta’s goal.
When he was a high school senior in western Pennsylvania, Carretta heard plenty of good things about Ohio’s hockey program, and after taking a visit to the campus and team facilities, he knew he wanted to be a Bobcat.
Unfortunately, Carretta didn’t immediately get his chance on the DI team. He was one of the final cuts from the roster his freshman year, and he instead started his collegiate career on Ohio’s Division II team.
That’s not to say Carretta didn’t enjoy his two years with the DII Bobcats.
“Playing DII for two years was actually a lot of fun,” Carretta said. “I got to work on some stuff to help me get up to DI.”
Carretta never felt held down on the DII team. Even if DI was his ultimate goal, he knew he was playing with plenty of talent with the roster he was on. Rather than focus more on where he wanted to be, Carretta chose to go out and work hard for himself and his team to get better. He ended up being one of the top producers on offense for the Bobcats.
Still, there were times when Carretta looked in the mirror and thought he should be at the next level. He decided to reach out to Ohio coach Cole Bell, who also saw potential in Carretta and added him to the tryout list.
The plan was for the tryouts to be held normally in fall of 2020 and for Bell and the coaching staff to decide who would be added to the roster and who would be cut. COVID-19 shutdowns complicated things and forced Bell to improvise a little. After some players opted out for safety reasons, Bell decided to invite the entire tryout list to practice.
“We wanted to give all these guys that were coming here to try out the full opportunity to grow and develop,” Bell said.
It came unconventionally, but Carretta finally had a place on the DI team. He found out from an email from Bell just as classes were starting for the Fall Semester. Carretta called his parents to tell them the news and planned to make an immediate impact his first year with the team.
When Carretta played in the Green and White scrimmage games prior to the 2021 season, he quickly noticed the differences between DI and DII hockey. The players and the game were both much quicker.
“That’s kind of what separates the levels of hockey,” Carretta said. “It’s the speed, it’s the thought process, it’s all of that. I’d say that’s really what’s different.”
Despite the slight change in atmosphere, Carretta made a name for himself in practice and in scrimmages, and Bell took notice. He was an offensive powerhouse with the DII team, and it looked like that talent was translating well to the DI team.
“(Carretta) was looking phenomenal,” Bell said. “He was going to be in one of our first two lines. It seemed like every time he touched the puck, it was in the back of the net in practice.”
Unfortunately, a total fluke injury resulted in Carretta injuring his ankle, needing surgery and being forced to sit the entire 2021 regular season out.
The good news is Carretta is scheduled to be ready shortly after the 2021 season comes to an end, meaning he’ll finally get his shot to play regular season games the following season.
“My mindset for next year is to just go in ready to produce and score some goals,” Carretta said. “Basically, just do anything I can really on the ice to help the team win.”
Both Carretta and Bell are looking forward to the rehab and training during the summer. Once healthy, Carretta might be an offensive weapon that makes Ohio a better team.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing what kind of impact he can make next year,” Bell said.