By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published April 7, 2011
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Led by a 40-save performance by senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick, the Michigan hockey team beat top-ranked North Dakota 2-0 in its first Frozen Four appearance since 2008.
With just over six minutes left in the first period, freshman Jon Merrill slapped a laser from the blue line. Winnett picked the puck up his own rebound to the right of North Dakota goalie Aaron Dell and buried it for his fourth goal of the season and Michigan’s first goal of the game.
North Dakota came out flying in the second period, but Hunwick remained up to the task for Michigan after a stellar first period. The Fighting Sioux outshot the Wolverines in the first period, 14-10 and continued to hold and increase their shot-advantage throughout the second period.
Just over five minutes into the third period, the Fighting Sioux held a 29-15 shot advantage on the Wolverines, but because of strong defensive play down low by the Wolverines and some crucial saves by Hunwick, the Wolverines held onto their one-goal lead.
For a defense that was missing a presence in junior Brandon Burlon, who was a scratch for tonight’s Frozen Four contest, the rest of the Wolverine defenders made smart plays with and without the puck and were able to keep the potent North Dakota offense at bay, even as the Fighting Sioux continued to pressure Michigan in its own zone.
The Wolverines best scoring chance of the third period came at the 10-minute mark when Vaughan had a breakaway shot that rebounded to wide open junior defensemen Greg Pateryn, but Dell got a stick on Pateryn’s shot to keep it a one-goal game.
Merrill took a holding call with 8:50 left in the third period to give North Dakota its fourth power play opportunity of the game, but the Wolverine penalty killers again came up strong, with nice clears by Winnett and junior forward Luke Glendening.
North Dakota boasted the No. 2 team offense in the nation heading into Thursday’s Frozen Four game, but Vaughan scored an empty-net goal to put the Wolverines 2-0 with just under 35 seconds in the game and the Wolverine bench erupted.
Michigan takes on Minnesota-Duluth in the National Championship Game on Saturday at the Xcel Center in St. Paul.