Ferris State goaltender Taylor Nelson failed to get the job done in Michigan’s series-opening 5-2 win over the Bulldogs on Thursday. So all eyes were on his freshman understudy C.J. Motte the next night. Motte had one task: shut down a Wolverine offense fresh off a five-goal performance.
No one was happier to kindly escort Motte from the spotlight than Michigan’s fifth-year senior netminder Shawn Hunwick.
After the 4-0 victory on Friday to sweep the series, Hunwick highlighted how important a shutout can be — not just for his morale, but for the team’s as well.
“It’s a team thing, too,” Hunwick said. “It’s a huge confidence booster for everyone in the locker room knowing we can go up against a CCHA team and give up nothing.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson likes to talk about “puck luck” — the hockey gods’ way of altering the outcome on the ice.
Several times on Friday, it looked as if the sixth-ranked Bulldogs were ready to strike. And when a few of their shots found metal, not nylon, the crowd’s sighs of relief emphasized that “puck luck” was on the fourth-ranked Wolverines’ side.
“The goal posts, obviously, were in our favor tonight,” Berenson said. “(Hunwick) played really well. The puck didn’t go in for them but it went in for us.”
Hunwick, too, was quick to dismiss his 24-save performance as little more than fortunate.
“I actually had probably one of my worst games tonight,” Hunwick said Friday. “Those (shots off the posts) could have been game changers. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”
But Hunwick’s role in the second shutout of the season for Michigan (2-1-1 CCHA, 6-1-1 overall) and its first sweep of Ferris State since February 2009 cannot be overstated. With a young defense skating in front of Hunwick, Berenson mentioned how crucial having an experienced goaltender can be.
“I don’t think he’s ever been in this kind of a role,” Berenson said. “He’s such an important player on the team and now he’s got to act like it. He knows that.”
The Bulldogs (2-2, 6-2) are now left to hope that the early season play of their goaltenders wasn’t a fluke after deep attacks like ones from the Wolverines have made them appear vulnerable.
But Hunwick was still impressed with the performance of Motte, who is still adjusting to the rigors of college hockey and the unwelcoming home crowds that await him in the CCHA.
“I thought he looked good,” Hunwick said of Motte, whose younger brother, Tyler, has committed to Michigan for 2013. “Coming into Yost as a visitor is a hard thing to do. The fans are all over you. I’m just happy they’re on my side.”
Junior forward Chris Brown thinks no other goalie in the country can provide the instant boost that Hunwick is capable of giving with a timely save or clutch block.
“Our goalie is going to play and stand on his head every night,” Brown said.
And for the Wolverines, that’s a talent that hardly goes unnoticed.