'Scary Good' Hunwick; From Stand-In to Standout
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Twenty-one minutes, four saves, and one goal allowed — the entire in-game playing experience of Michigan's new starting goaltender Shawn Hunwick, before Wolverines netminder Bryan Hogan was injured in a game against Notre Dame on February 25.
But experience might just be overrated.
Since Hogan's injury, Hunwick has gone 7-1, with a 1.50 goals-against average in the CCHA playoffs en route to Michigan's most recent tournament championship. For the first time in league history, a team that finished as low as seventh in the regular season standings won the conference title.
And along the way, Hunwick has surprised not only the Michigan faithful, but his coaches as well.
"If I would have seen it coming, I would have played him early in the year when Hogan was inconsistent and probably needed some support," said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. "When your starting goalie's not playing well, you want to be able to throw your backup goalie in and know that he can pick up the slack. And I didn't know that."
Indeed, the Wolverines' confidence in Hunwick wasn't exactly sky high. His brother, Matt, was a former captain in Ann Arbor, but Shawn seemed to excel more off the ice than on, winning the University's Athletic Academic Achievement Award as a freshman — following a season in which he made just two saves in a few minutes of game action.
Hunwick then rode the bench during his sophomore campaign, with Hogan and senior Billy Sauer sharing time defending Michigan's net.
Continued Berenson, "I had seen Shawn in practice for two years, and I liked him. But he never got consideration as a starting goalie. Even when we threw him in in the GLI, in a game against RPI, he didn't look particularly comfortable or ready.
"But when Hogan got hurt, he had to go in. And away he went."
After relieving Hogan against the Fighting Irish, Hunwick made 14 saves the rest of the game, as the Wolverines won 4-0. The real test would come two nights later in South Bend, with the Sterling, Mich., native making his first career start.
"He stumbled a little bit in his second game," recalled Berenson. "He had a good first half of the game. We had a 2-0 lead, and then bang-bang-bang — three questionable goals. And it looked like his armor had been dented."
Notre Dame won that game, the regular season finale, 5-3. Meanwhile, the Wolverines returned to Ann Arbor, less than six days away from the start of the CCHA playoffs — well aware that, if they didn't win the conference championship, their record streak of 19 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances would come to an end.
Of course, the 5-foot-7 Hunwick has stood tall since, winning six straight.
"We came home for the playoffs after losing that game [to Notre Dame]," said Berenson. "And he looked dynamite in practice. I kept asking our goalie coach, Josh Blackburn, 'How's Hunnie look?' And he said, 'He looks scary good.' He was so ready that next weekend when we played Lake State after a great week in practice. And then he continued that, at Michigan State [in the CCHA quarterfinals], and at Joe Louis Arena [in the CCHA Final Four]."
This certainly isn't the first time that a Michigan athlete has come in for the first time as a junior to make headlines. Just ask the current starting quarterback for the New England Patriots.
Now, in present day, on Saturday evening in Fort Wayne, Hunwick looks for his seventh consecutive playoff victory as the Wolverines take on the CHA champion Alabama-Huntsville in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Two more wins by Hunwick and Co. this weekend would send Michigan to its 11th Frozen Four during Berenson's illustrious coaching career.
"He's practiced hard, and he's playing against good players every day in practice," said the veteran coach. "It was just a matter of putting it into a game, and he's done that. The players love it — he's a players' goalie. He's worked hard every day for the last three years, and now he's getting a chance to play. And he's having success.
"So it's a good story. It's a team thing too, because the team has really rallied around him."
And — after all — why wouldn't they?
He's looked scary good.