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Penalty kill hurts and helps hockey in weekend split of MSU

Paul Sherman/Daily
Fifth-year senior goalie Shawn Hunwick and the Michigan penalty had a rocky weekend against the Spartans. Buy this photo

By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 12, 2012

DETROIT — There had to be a sense of déjà vu for the No. 4 Michigan hockey team.

Overtime against Michigan State in Joe Louis Arena? Check. Goal by a relatively quiet player — in this case, junior forward Kevin Lynch — to clinch the game? Double check.

The Wolverines’ 3-2 win over the Spartans on Saturday was a mirror image of the Great Lakes Invitational back in December.

Luckily for the squad, it didn’t replicate too much from past games against the Spartans — notably, an abysmal penalty kill that led Michigan (12-8-4 CCHA, 18-10-4 overall) to drop a 3-2 decision in East Lansing on Friday night.

“I’d say the best thing about our game was that we didn’t have to kill six penalties,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “The game was well-officiated, the players played within themselves.”

Michigan struck first on Saturday, when junior forward A.J. Treais scored his fifth goal in as many games. His initial shot on Spartan netminder Will Yanakeff rebounded off of the goalie’s pads, but Treais collected the puck and fired a backhand to find the back of the net.

After Michigan State (11-10-3, 16-12-4) found the equalizer early in the second frame, the Wolverines’ penalty-kill unit found itself in trouble again.

When freshman forward Zach Hyman took a hooking penalty, the Spartans capitalized on their man advantage in less than a minute. Working the puck around the crease, Brett Perlini fired a wrister on fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick’s glove side and into the goal.

Not the kind of thing Berenson wanted to see.

“In the games we’ve lost this season, penalties have been the cause of that,” said junior forward Kevin Lynch. “(Berenson) said, ‘Limit the penalties tonight, we’ll win the game.’ ”

Michigan listened. Treais went on to knot the game with a wrister from the top of the circle, and both teams went 30 minutes without sending a player to the sin bin.

But with six minutes left in the final stanza, sophomore forward Luke Moffatt went to the box for hooking, giving the Spartans a critical power play.

Just minutes before, Michigan struggled to clear the puck from its zone. On this penalty, though, the penalty-kill unit played much more aggressively — senior forward Luke Glendening cleared the puck on rebound shots off of Hunwick and junior forward Kevin Lynch fought hard around the point.

Hunwick is at the heart of every penalty kill, and though he held his own on Saturday, he was on the receiving end of some very lucky breaks. Shots hit the pipes or just bounced the right way in his favor.

Berenson still sang Hunwick’s praises after the game.

“Hunwick was bigger than life,” Berenson said. “Let’s face it, he wasn’t very big, but he played like he was big.”

Killing the penalty at the end of the game keyed a huge momentum swing. But it seemed even bigger because of how the unit had performed the night before.

Before the Spartans' second goal on Friday, the Wolverines had killed 26 consecutive penalties. By the end of Friday’s game, they had surrendered two power-play goals.

After a scoreless first frame in that contest, Michigan took a two-goal lead thanks to Treais and Lynch, but Michigan State kept creating scoring opportunities.

It eventually paid off for them. A slapshot from the top of the circle midway through the second period cut the Wolverines’ lead in half.

Then came the slew of penalties, starting at the beginning of the third period.

It only took Michigan State’s Torey Krug one minute to capitalize on a boarding penalty and fire a slapshot past Hunwick.

Another one followed three minutes later.

It was difficult for Berenson to hold in his frustration at the end of the game.

“Our team was not good,” Berenson said bluntly. “You can’t take penalties. You can’t keep taking penalties against any team. We took two penalties that cost us the game.”

But Berenson’s stern talk with the team about playing shorthanded paid off — he was all smiles after winning at the Joe.

“I think we were good,” Berenson said. “I liked our … spirit (and) work ethic, and I thought we were generating something.”