MARQUETTE — Fifth-year senior goalie Shawn Hunwick’s punch to the chin of Northern Michigan forward Andrew Cherniwchan in the second period started the Friday-night fireworks. Before the punch — and the fight that accompanied it — neither team could find the net.
But once the tensions erupted, so did the offenses. The 17th-ranked Wildcats thwarted a late comeback by the No. 1 Michigan hockey team to take the first game of the series, 5-3, and hand the Wolverines their first loss of the season.
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Hunwick and sophomore forward Luke Moffatt both earned ejections just under 11 minutes into the second period. Hunwick received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for contact to the head for throwing a punch. Moffatt and Cherniwchan also received disqualifications for fighting.
“This is CCHA hockey,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “It’s a battle every night.”
The brawl began after a Northern Michigan breakaway. Hunwick made a glove save, and the puck squirted loose. The speeding Wildcat collided with Hunwick and upended him. Meanwhile, forward Reed Seckel boarded a Michigan player in the corner after the whistle.
Players from both teams exchanged blows near the goal and the site of Seckel’s infraction. Hunwick landed a punch on Cherniwchan’s jaw, and Moffatt got into a fight for a moment before being thrown to the ice.
The referees needed several minutes to sort out the mayhem and many more to sort out the penalties. They ejected Hunwick, Moffatt and Cherniwchan and gave Seckel a double-minor for boarding. Hunwick will be available for Saturday’s game, while Moffatt will not.
As Hunwick skated towards the bench, he threw his stick back onto the ice in frustration.
“We can’t have our senior captain — one of our captains — losing his cool like that, no matter what happens,” Berenson said.
Play after the brawl turned into a pinball game. After the fight, Northern Michigan (1-0 CCHA, 4-1 overall) put in two goals and the Wolverines scored once in the span of two minutes.
Northern Michigan went up by two scores when defenseman Mitch Jones scored in the opening minute of the third period. Michigan answered with goals by freshmen forwards Zach Hyman — his first career goal — and Travis Lynch to even the score, 3-3, with four minutes remaining.
But Michigan sophomore goalie Adam Janecyk struggled in his first action in a tight game. Northern Michigan forward Tyler Gron scored just over a minute after Lynch to take a one-goal lead, and the Wildcats added an empty-netter to put the game away.
“(Janecyk) gave us a chance,” Berenson said. “He won’t like the last goal, but for the most part, he gave us a chance.”
The referees struggled to maintain control of the game from the opening whistle. Northern Michigan dominated the first period as the Wolverines (0-1, 4-1) played sloppily on offense and were weak with their forechecking.
Both teams played physically, especially when the defenses dominated in the first half of the second period. Eventually, players got chippy. Berenson said that he told his team to “literally stop hitting along the boards.”
The frustration built on both sides, and erupted after the collision with Hunwick.
“When someone takes a run at your goalie, there’s nothing you can really do to stop yourself form going after them,” said senior defenseman Greg Pateryn. “Sometimes you just can’t control it. You just gotta do what you gotta do.”