- Jed Moch/Daily
By Matt Slovin, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 5, 2012
After the Michigan hockey team scored three first-period goals on Friday, Miami (Ohio) coach Enrico Blasi pulled starting goaltender Cody Reichard in favor of Connor Knapp.
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The two seniors look nothing alike. Reichard is under six-feet tall. Knapp stands at 6-foot-6.
So why, in the post-game press conference, did Michigan junior forward A.J. Treais incredulously ask, “They changed goalies?”
Probably because it didn’t matter who was in net for Miami during the Wolverines’ series sweep. It only mattered who stood at the opposite end of the ice — fifth-year senior netminder Shawn Hunwick.
Hunwick turned in another near-perfect weekend, the latest in a string of impressive performances. In the last three weekends, he's cruised to two shutouts and twice held opponents to one-goal games.
This weekend, the Yost Ice Arena crowd showered Hunwick with chants of “Hobey Baker,” the annual award given to college hockey's best player. He was nothing short of a rock, as his coach Red Berenson likes to say, rising to the occasion as RedHawk skaters intruded into his crease all weekend long.
Miami knocked him down time after time, but that didn’t stop Hunwick from making plays when they mattered most — when the Wolverines were killing off penalties.
Berenson sung the shorthanded unit’s praises but didn’t hesitate to call out his team for spending far too much time a man down.
“Too many penalties — that’s what cost us,” Berenson said. “I thought there were some real good parts of (the penalty kill), and there were some other parts of it where your goalie has to be your best penalty killer.”
During Michigan’s 3-0 win on Saturday, the infractions started early and kept on coming. When senior defenseman Greg Pateryn was whistled for a slash just 39 seconds into the contest, the parade to the penalty box began. Fifty-two penalty minutes later, a frustrated Miami power play walked away empty-handed.
In fact, the Wolverine penalty killers answered the call, not just by making quick work of the four Miami power plays, but also by scoring a goal of their own.
On a RedHawk advantage in the first period, Miami overcommitted in the attacking zone. Junior forward Kevin Lynch managed to knock the puck out of the zone and senior captain Luke Glendening was there to start the odd-man rush. The lone Miami defenseman looked mystified as Glendening’s pass whizzed by, and Knapp couldn’t possibly catch up to the shot that followed from junior defenseman Lee Moffie.
“A big thing with two-on-ones is that … they’re a lot more productive when the pass is made early,” Moffie said. “That’s what (Glendening) did and that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Michigan’s breakaways and odd-man rushes this season have been ugly, but the one scored by Moffie on Saturday was picturesque.
The shorthanded tally was the Wolverines’ third of the season, and their first since November.
After the game, Blasi credited the Michigan penalty killers for preventing most of his team’s chances before they could come to fruition.
“Part of it is good goaltending,” Blasi said. “And guys blocking shots and things. As a whole, Michigan was the better team all weekend long.”
That edge came at a cost, though.
“Our defense had to take a beating to get pucks out (of our zone),” Berenson said.
Even after scoring with his team a man down, Moffie wasn’t finished. In the second period, Treais found himself skating with the puck in the left faceoff circle and spotted Moffie streaking towards the goal. After receiving a perfect pass, Moffie hammered the puck home from the slot to put the Wolverines up 2-0.
The referees laid off their whistles in the second period, but things soon got out of hand in the third. Michigan and Miami combined for 16 penalties in the last 20 minutes.
In the midst of the chippy period, junior forward Chris Brown scored the goal of the season for the Wolverines, a highlight-reel gem that turned the faces of the RedHawks’ defensemen and goaltender the same shade of red as their sweaters.
Brown received the puck and skated the length of the ice, but paused at the top of the circle to send the puck through the legs of Miami’s Will Weber. Knapp must’ve been too busy gaping at the deke — which sent the Yost Ice Arena crowd into a frenzy — to make a serious attempt at stopping the ensuing shot.
With one minute remaining, tensions culminated with a fight in a corner in the Miami zone. Brown and Weber got into a tussle, and the referees dealt each a game disqualification. When the Wolverines travel to Munn Ice Arena on Friday night to try and extend their three-game winning streak, they will have to do it without Brown.
Though the score might not reflect the difficulties Michigan faced, Berenson can’t help but shake his head at the lack of discipline his team displayed.
“You shouldn’t have to kill that many penalties in a game like that,” Berenson said.
Berenson continues to preach the importance of limiting penalty minutes. A vast majority of power-play units will make Michigan pay for its misdoings. But with the penalty kill playing its best down the stretch, it’s comforting to know he has defensemen willing to sacrifice their bodies to get the puck away from danger. And even more so, that his backstop, Hunwick, is seeing the ice just fine, at even strength or not.
“When you’re playing against Miami, in front of crowds like that, and the intensity of this series,” Hunwick said, “I was just trying to play the game and have fun.”