Hunwick Stands Tall for Michigan
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
ST. PAUL, Minn. Michigan netminder Shawn Hunwick stopped 40 shots and led the Michigan Wolverines back to the national championship game, upsetting the nation's No. 1 team North Dakota 2-0 in the second semifinal game of the Frozen Four Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
Hunwick was especially crisp in the second period, where the Fighting Sioux outshot the Wolverines 11-3. For the game, UND owned a 40-20 edge in shots on goal and controlled play much of the night.
"Our team had to play more in our own zone tonight than we have all year," said Wolverines head coach Red Berenson. "That was a great team in North Dakota. They just couldn't score."
Michigan took a 1-0 lead to the third period, marking the first time in since Jan. 28 North Dakota trailed heading into the final 20 minutes. It lost that game 4-2 to Colorado College — UND's last loss before Thursday night.
The Wolverines got on the board first 13:26 of the opening frame, thanks to some puck luck. After a shot by defenseman Jon Merrill clanked off the post, the puck deflected into traffic in front. Finally gathered in by Ben Winnett, the senior powered to his right and fired the puck over a sprawling Aaron Dell for his fourth goal of the season. Merrill and Luke Glendening were credited with assists.
"Jonny did a great job of keeping the puck in the zone," Winnett said. "Luke Glendening was able to take two guys out of the play and kick it to me. I had a wide open net."
In the third period, Hunwick stonewalled Frattin with just over 10 minutes to play in the third, making a leg save after Frattin positioned himself alone in front on his backhand.
It was a sign of things to come.
With five minutes to play, Evan Trupp had a chance in front but his shot sailed high and wide. Trupp had a pair of golden opportunities with under a minute remaining and an empty net on the other end. Both of his shots came from within 15 feet of Hunwick, but he turned both of them wide.
"I was pretty confident tonight," Hunwick said. "I think I'd rather be in a game like that than getting 15 shots against. Those are tough games, but when they keep coming at you you have to be ready. The guys did a great job and I felt like I was seeing the puck well."
Seconds after turning Trupp away, Michigan senior Scooter Vaughan gained control of a loose puck in the neutral zone and slid the puck into an open net to secure the win.
The evening capped a disappointing trend for the Fighting Sioux under head coach Dave Hakstol. In seven seasons since taking over from Dean Blais, Hakstol has led the Sioux to the NCAA tournament each season while also playing in five Frozen Fours. Hakstol will be left looking until next year for his first title. He said he was shocked it didn't happen this season.
"I didn't think it was going to end," Hakstol said. "I'm just going to be blunt and honest. I don't think anybody in our locker room considered the option of losing down the stretch. Period."
"We failed what we were trying to do," said senior defenseman Derrick LaPoint. "To not win the championship, it's a failure in my mind."
Michigan and Minnesota Duluth will play for the national championship Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. The Wolverines and Bulldogs last played each other in 2001 in the championship game of the Maverick Stampede tournament in Omaha. UMD won that game 3-2.
Faceoff for Saturday's championship is set for 6 p.m.
The Wolverines last played in the championship game in 1998, when they won the national title 3-2 over Boston College at the Fleet Center — their most recent of the record nine national championships the program has accumulated since 1948.
Minnesota Duluth's lone championship game appearance came in 1984, when the Bulldogs lost 5-4 in a four overtime thriller to Bowling Green in Lake Placid, N.Y.