- Marlene Lacasse/Daily
By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 11, 2012
The Michigan hockey team was tiptoeing a fine line on Saturday night with two minutes remaining against Notre Dame.
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The Wolverines were up 3-1, but sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill was whistled for high-sticking just seconds after the Fighting Irish pulled their goaltender, Steven Summerhays. No. 4 Michigan was going to be down two men for the last two minutes of the game, trying to hold on for a CCHA quarterfinal sweep of Notre Dame.
This came after the teams played more than 83 minutes of hockey in a double-overtime thriller the night before — both squads were breathing a little heavier than usual.
Then in a perfect microcosm of this senior class — and really the last three months — Michigan killed it. There were Wolverines flying all over the ice, diving and sprinting to the very end, giving every last iota of energy after an exhausting weekend.
“(Goaltender Shawn) Hunwick had to be a penalty killer, (defenseman Greg) Pateryn had to block shots like a goalie, (forward) Luke Glendening did,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I thought our seniors really, really stepped up this weekend.”
Senior forward David Wohlberg was the difference on offense, scoring a goal in both the first and second periods on Saturday.
But the lynchpin, as usual, was Hunwick. He had 37 saves on Friday and 25 on Saturday, capping his brilliant career at Yost.
“I was hoping I could get a sixth year, maybe a gray year,” Hunwick joked. “It’s sad. … I thought I was going to play one minute of one game, hopefully on senior night, when I came here.
“To play this many games at Yost, I can’t be too upset about the career I’ve had here.”
Hunwick, the former walk-on, picked slap shots out of the air and threw back one-on-none situations with ease both nights.
“He’s a warrior,” said Berenson. “He’s done everything he can for this team and this program.”
Both Hunwick and Wohlberg mentioned how loud the crowd was in the last period — probably the rowdiest the fans and the student section, the Children of Yost, have been all season. In their last game at Yost, the seniors got reflective.
“The fans here are great and they helped us out a lot tonight,” Wohlberg said. “It’s one of those things that you don’t forget about when you look back and see which games you won.”
FIVE OR SIX, OR MAYBE FIVE: During Friday’s 2-1 victory, Michigan went with five defenseman instead of the usual six for most of both overtime periods, leaving freshman Brennan Serville next to Berenson on the bench.
Notre Dame’s only goal came on a play where Serville got caught out of position and basically screened Hunwick in front of the net. What the goalie can’t see, the goalie probably can’t save.
“We just decided we would go with five ‘D’,” said Berenson. “The game is too important and the score is so close, and we are putting a freshman defenseman out there in some tough situations, but I thought (Serville) played fine in the game.
“He got victimized on the goal, but he wasn’t the only one.”
That sixth defenseman spot has been in flux ever since the return of Merrill in January from a suspension. Serville manned it this weekend, but freshman Mike Chiasson has also been starting in that spot.
As the games continue to become more crucial, it might not matter who is playing the sixth defenseman spot. Berenson might stick with five veterans, at risk of fatigue, rather than plugging in a freshman with no playoff experience on the ice.
ST. PATTY’S AT THE JOE: The last seed in the CCHA Tournament, Bowling Green, played the spoiler role this weekend, sending No. 1 seed Ferris State home early.
That means Michigan is the highest-remaining seed in the Tournament, and will play Bowling Green on Friday.
Western Michigan and red-hot Miami (Ohio) will play in the other semifinal game.
The winner of Friday’s games will play in the CCHA final on Saturday. All times are still to be announced.