Frozen Four Notebook
by Joe Meloni/CHN Staff Writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. North Dakota senior Evan Trupp has been described as the most integral player of the team's prolific top line. The gifted playmaker is one of a handful of players UND coach Dave Hakstol sent to the ice with his Sioux trailing Michigan, 1-0, in the final minute of Thursday's national semifinal.
Trupp corralled a puck in the right face-off circle and quickly redirected the shot toward Michigan goaltender Matt Hunwick with fewer than 60 seconds remaining the regulation. Hunwick made one of his 40 saves on the shot, before the rebound kicked back to Trupp. Again, he quickly controlled the puck and set the top right corner in his sights. The attempt drew the mass of Sioux fans to their feet before Hunwick slid back into position to keep the puck out of his net.
As the Sioux continued to send shot after shot on the Michigan goal, Hunwick proved equal to each test. When he made his 40th save, the Wolverines promptly turned the puck up ice, where senior Scooter Vaughan slid the puck into the empty North Dakota net. Hunwick, along with the remaining Wolverines, began his celebration immediately.
However, even Michigan coach Red Berenson understands the magnitude of Hunwick's brilliance on Thursday.
"I'm not surprised because this is what he's doing," Berenson said of his goaltender. "But it's one week after another. Like a year ago, I would have told you there was no chance that this would be happening, and yet he nearly got us to the Frozen Four last year when he had to come in late season as an emergency. He had never started a Division I game."
Despite guiding the Wolverines to a CCHA Tournament Championship and the Midwest Regional final last season, Hunwick entered the season in a competition with Bryan Hogan for the starting job in Ann Arbor. Through the early parts of the season, Hunwick struggled to find any consistency, as his record fell to 2-3-4 at one point and his save percentage dropped as low as .903. Not until Jan. 7 did he play an entire weekend series, as Berenson wavered between he and Hogan.
In the last three games, Hunwick has allowed just three goals on 71 shots in guiding the Wolverines to the national championship game.
Hunwick's Not the Only One
Michigan senior Carl Hagelin earned his reputation as one of the premier playmakers in the country due to his exploits with the puck. Along with seniors Louie Caporusso and Matt Rust, Hagelin led a gifted Michigan senior class many pegged for easy 40-point seasons in 2010-11, as the group opted to return to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a chance at a national championship.
Saturday night, the Wolverines will get that chance when they take on Minnesota-Duluth at 7 p.m. (ET), and it was the group's defensive commitment that guided the Wolverines to their 2-0 win over North Dakota. The Wolverines counted heavily on Hunwick in allowing the Fighting Sioux 40 shots on goal. However, the Michigan forwards and defensemen sacrificed for the win, blocking 16 shots.
"We came into the game knowing that we had to play well defensively, and that includes great goaltending, blocking shots, backchecking and just our [defensemen] playing low," Hagelin said. "And we all have that mindset, that we want to block every shot, we want to get the puck out. And that's been the strength of our team lately.
"We want to make sure we're playing well defensively, and things are going to go our way then."
Hagelin took a puck off the left ankle in blocking one of UND's final shots of the game Thursday night. For his trouble, he received an assist on Vaughan's empty-net goal. After the game, he was seen limping with the ankle wrapped. Given the questions many had about the commitment of the Michigan seniors in years past, Hagelin's ankle is proof of the Wolverines' commitment.
Nelson leaves early
North Dakota freshman Brock Nelson left the game on a stretcher in the first period after a hit from a Michigan captain Luke Glendening sent him sliding into the boards behind the Wolverine goal.
Nelson was taken to the hospital for X-rays that proved to be negative. Glendening hit Nelson, just as he headed toward Hunwick with the puck. Glendening collided with Nelson, shoulder to shoulder, sending him to the boards. Both his back and shoulder hit the boards hard, and he remained still on the ice for several minutes before leaving on a stretcher.
"It's tough to see a teammate go down like that," UND defenseman Derrick LaPoint said. "You never want to see a stretcher come on the ice. With Brock going down in the regional, we kind of had been through it before. So I think a lot of guys rallied around it. It's disappointing that we didn't do the job for him definitely."
With Nelson out of the lineup, Hakstol was forced to rotate only three centers. Adding to his woes, late in the game, he opted to keep his fourth line on the bench with the Sioux fighting desperately to level the score.
Wolverines bail themselves out
Three minutes, 37 seconds into the first period, Rust went off on an elbowing minor. Rust protested the call as officials escorted him to the penalty box. Aside from disagreeing with the call itself, Rust was likely annoyed that the vaunted UND power play was set to take the ice. North Dakota entered the game converting more than 23 percent of its power plays into goals.
However, the Michigan penalty killers prevented the Sioux snipers from creating quality scoring chances, holding them to two shots on that opportunity and just five on the four power plays throughout the game. Obviously, Hunwick's brilliance helped the Wolverines control the Sioux, but the penalty killers eliminated quality scoring chances with strong positioning and commitment to shot blocking.
"Obviously, the penalty kill played a big role for us two weeks ago in our regional," senior Ben Winnett said. "And, again, [Michigan assistant coach] Billy Powers prepared us very well against a very good power play (Thursday night).
"And I always say your goaltender is going to be your best penalty killer, and (Hunwick) was that this evening. And, as far as the rest of the guys, they worked hard, and I think we out-worked their top players."
Against Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday, the Wolverines will counteract an equally dangerous power play, led by a similarly explosive top line.
Notes: Michigan coach Red Berenson's record in Frozen Four semifinals improved to 3-7 with the win over North Dakota ... Michigan advanced to its first national championship game since 1998 when it defeated Boston College … With the loss to Michigan, Hakstol falls to 1-4 all-time in Frozen Four semifinals. Overall, his record at the event is 1-5. Since taking over the job in 2004-05, he has led the Sioux to the Frozen Four in five of the seven seasons … North Dakota senior Matt Frattin is a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, set to be announced Friday 7 p.m. (ET). Boston College winger and Miami center Andy Miele are the other finalists; both signed professional contracts in the days following their teams' elimination from the NCAA Tournament … Michigan had only one power play in Thursday's game. The Wolverines went 0 for 1 without a shot in the two minutes. Late in the first period, a Kevin Lynch diving minor negated a potential Michigan power play, as UND defenseman Andrew MacWilliam was also whistled for interference on the play.