Hunwick confident in a veteran role heading into playoffs

Salam Rida/Daily
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Daily Sports Writer
Published March 9, 2011

Michigan coach Red Berenson described netminder Shawn Hunwick’s season last year as an adventure.

In the latter stages of last season, Hunwick was called upon to fill the void in net when starter Bryan Hogan went down with a groin injury. Having seen less than three minutes of game-action prior to that point, Hunwick utilized his opportunity to anchor the Wolverines’ push to reach their 20th-consecutive NCAA Tournament.

But that was last year, and if Hunwick knows one thing, it’s that he can’t live in the past.

Now, the goalie finds himself in a similar role. He will be the one to defend the pipes as Michigan begins its playoff run in this weekend’s CCHA quarterfinal best-of-three series against Bowling Green.

“I think last year, it was all an adventure,” Berenson said. “He was hoping, and he handled it well. But now he’s got a base, he’s got a base of expectations. He knows what he can do (and) he knows what he should do.”

With the regular season completed, Hunwick has worked his way to a career-best three shutouts this season, including two against Michigan State. The Sterling Heights, Mich. native ranks second in the conference in goals against average (1.95), save percentage (.931) and winning percentage (.690) — even after getting out to a slow start this season.

Hunwick’s record heading into The Big Chill at the Big House was a mediocre 3-3-4 and he wasn’t even supposed to play in the event. But when Hogan went down during warm-ups, Hunwick took over. He registered a shutout, finding the same success as he did near the end of last season.

The only difference was that this time around, Hunwick had the confidence and the poise of a veteran.

“I thought he played better in that situation than he (did when he) was playing for the job in the first half,” Berenson said. “For one reason or another, he took advantage of the opportunity or he appreciated the opportunity more. It just seemed to be another experience that turned out to be a positive one for him.”

Since that game, Hunwick has kept his foot on the gas. He led the Wolverines to both a Great Lakes Invitational title and a CCHA regular season title, earning a 16-7-4 overall record and a 5-1-2 line when making 30 or more saves in a game along the way.

“If we didn’t end up with the lowest goals against, we weren’t going to win (the CCHA),” Berenson said. “He was the reason, night after night. Look at all the close games we played in. We weren’t the prolific team that we could really separate ourselves many nights from our opponents, and Hunwick was a big factor in our success.”

As Michigan’s postseason begins this weekend, it marks the beginning of the end for the current Wolverine senior class. But the good news for Michigan fans is that Hunwick — who was approached by the coaches after the 2009-10 season about his additional year of eligibility — weighed his options and has decided to stay at Michigan for another season.

“A lot of people talk about the goalie as being kind of an individual sport,” senior forward Matt Rust said. “There’s no one to back him up, he’s the last line of defense. I know when the offense hasn’t been putting a lot of goals to the net, we’ve really looked to Shawn to backstop us. He’s done a great job all season and he’s going to continue to do that for us in the future.”

Hunwick is sure to put thoughts about the future on hold as the only thing occupying his mind is the job in front of him and the rest of the Wolverines, starting with Bowling Green.

And in this year’s playoff run, Hunwick has the experience to add a little control to his Michigan adventure.

“I’m definitely confident going into the playoffs (this year), but I think at the same time, I’m just another piece to the puzzle,” Hunwick said. “I’m asked to do my job, I’m not asked to recapture last year’s run or do anything like that. They’re asking me just to play good (in goal), to continue to play the way I have. I definitely have experience playing in the playoffs, so it’s going to be a lot nicer this year.”