Team of the Week: Michigan
Hunwick, Wolverines Enjoying Big Turnaround
by Zach Helfand/CHN Reporter
After Michigan’s sweep of Miami last weekend, someone asked Shawn Hunwick what has changed for him and the Wolverines since their brutal losing streak two months ago.
The fifth-year senior goalie just looked to the side, grinned and let out a chuckle.
The question is a good one for Michigan, which has enjoyed a sharp change in fortune since winning the Great Lakes Invitational in December. Yet it’s almost irrelevant: the Wolverines are playing like a completely different team.
“We were losing a bunch of one-goal games, and now we’re able to pull these games out,” Hunwick said. “It’s huge in the second half to know you can play in games like that.”
Confidence has sparked the turnaround, and that confidence begins with Hunwick.
In the nine games Hunwick has started since the start of the GLI, the backstop has allowed just 10 goals — no more than two in any game — including two shutouts. Hunwick’s save percentage over that time is .964 — and he was named national goaltender of the month for January.
Michigan’s record in those games? 8-1.
“When you have a goaltender like Hunny, it feeds off the entire team,” said sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill. “Everyone’s confident, everyone knows you’re going to have a chance every night with Hunny back there.”
Junior defenseman Lee Moffie, who called Michigan’s turnaround “weird,” credited a focus on defense.
That focus has created a revamped penalty-kill unit. Michigan struggled mightily on both ends of the power play during its skid.
The return of Merrill — who was suspended for the first half of the season for violating unspecified team rules — as well as the emergence of role players like sophomore forward Derek DeBlois and junior forward Kevin Lynch, has rejuvenated the Wolverines’ penalty kill.
“Our last 10 games, we’ve improved our power play a lot, but we’ve improved our penalty killing more,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. And he’s right.
The penalty kill suffocated Miami last weekend. Though the RedHawks had 12 opportunities with the man advantage, the Wolverines thwarted them all, and Moffie added a shorthanded goal for good measure.
On the power play, Michigan converted on two of its 10 chances.
Add in the success of Michigan’s top line of senior forward David Wohlberg, junior forward Chris Brown and freshman foward Alex Guptill, and you have the recipe for a second-half hot streak.
“Confidence is huge,” Berenson said. “A team can be good without confidence, but with confidence they can be great.”
Berenson warned that overconfidence can be dangerous, though, especially in a series with rival Michigan State. Brown, whose name has found the box score often lately, will miss Friday’s tilt because of a game misconduct at the end of the contest against Miami last Saturday.
At the time, Berenson made comments that made it seem like Miami coach Enrico Blasi failed to control his players because they faced little repercussions with a non-conference series upcoming this week.
“A smart coach knows how important his players are and they have to stay in the game, and when a team has a nonconference weekend the next weekend, they might take liberties,” Berenson said on Saturday. “We’re the ones that are going to pay for it.”
On Tuesday, Berenson tried to clear the air.
“It sounded like after the game I was worried about their team knowing that they play a non-conference weekend so they can take liberties,” Berenson said. “That didn’t come from the coach. He obviously was trying to do the right thing and keep the game under control too.
“I want to make that clear.”
Despite Brown’s suspension, the momentum is palpable at Michigan practices. Berenson said that it is his job to keep the Wolverines from getting too high on themselves.
“The one thing we try and do as coaches is to keep it at an even keel,” Berenson said. “We don’t want our team getting too high or too low.”
Berenson then looked over his shoulder, miming looking back at the past. “As soon as you start admiring your success, you’re going to end up on your back.”