- Marlene Lacasse/Daily
BY MATT SLOVIN
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 20, 2012
Meet LSA senior Shawn Hunwick, the most unlikely star goaltender in Michigan hockey history.
Hunwick’s well-documented rise to prominence began when he led the Wolverines through the CCHA Tournament, earning a NCAA Tournament berth. This year, with Hunwick anchoring in net, Michigan made its 22nd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. But Hunwick didn’t expect his career as a Wolverine to go anything like it has. In fact, he thought he’d be riding the pine as a perennial benchwarmer.
After his last game at Yost Ice Arena — a series-clinching victory over Notre Dame in this year’s league quarterfinals — Hunwick appeared nostalgic.
“I was hoping I could get a sixth year, maybe a gray year,” Hunwick said. “It’s sad … I thought I was going to play one minute of one game, hopefully on senior night, when I came here.”
Instead, the 5-foot-6 netminder staked his claim between the pipes, never looking back.
This season has been Hunwick’s first with the job to himself. It’s not a role he takes for granted, and he plays every night like he has something to prove.
But if there is any added pressure on Hunwick as he owns the crease, he hasn’t let it show. This season, he has compiled an impressive five shutouts, and is among the 10 finalists for the prestigious Hobey Baker Memorial Award given annually to the nation’s top college hockey player. While he certainly isn’t the favorite to win the hardware, the fact that he’s even in the conversation — a former walk-on goalie who didn’t expect to play — is an accomplishment in itself.
But there’s no understating the value that Hunwick brings to the Wolverines and nobody knows that more than his coach, Red Berenson.
After Michigan defeated Notre Dame in the CCHA quarterfinals earlier this month, Berenson repeated a mantra that’s been used frequently this season.
“Let’s face it,” Berenson said. “Shawn Hunwick had to keep us in that game.”
But the way he’s played is hardly an issue for the Wolverines. In fact, many expect Hunwick’s play to dictate Michigan’s performance down the stretch, as it prepares to play Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Hunwick’s career in Ann Arbor feels more like a fairytale than anything else. All that’s missing is the picture-perfect ending to a story which still has quite a few pages left to fill.