The Yost Ice Arena crowd is incredibly creative. Fans berate opposing goalies by dubbing them “sieves” and taunt CCHA referees’ outdated facial hair with chants of “porno mustache.” About the only traditional ritual that the Yost crowd partakes in is the act of throwing hats on the ice after a Wolverine scores three goals.
With a little more than two minutes remaining in Friday night’s 8-3 win over Bowling Green, and Michigan skating with a man advantage, Wolverine defenseman Matt Hunwick took a pass from his defensive partner, Brandon Rogers. Hunwick wound up and slapped a shot over the stick of Falcons goalie Jordan Sigalet for his third goal of the game. The fans at Yost celebrated the hat trick like any veteran group of hockey fans would — they chucked their caps over the glass and onto the ice.
“I was just trying to put a shot on net,” Hunwick said. “We had a couple of guys in front, so I was just trying to get it through.”
Three of Hunwick’s teammates skated to him to congratulate the sophomore on what he said may have been his first hat trick at any level of competition, but senior forward Milan Gajic went in another direction. He swooped into the net, and grabbed the puck for Hunwick to keep.
“He probably would have forgotten about it. That kid doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going,” Gajic said jokingly. “As soon as I saw it go in the net, I didn’t even put my hands up — I just grabbed it.”
Hunwick’s first goal of the night — like his third — came on the power play. In the second period, with Michigan trailing 3-1, junior forward Jeff Tambellini — positioned just to the left of the net — put two quick shots on the Bowling Green goal. Freshman Chad Kolarik then gained possession of the puck briefly before it squirted out to Hunwick near the left circle. The defenseman shot to Sigalet’s glove side and scored .
“I was looking at his power play production (before the game), and it hadn’t been significant,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “And the thing that concerned me was that he only had four or five shots in the first 16 games on the power play. See what happens when you shoot the puck?”
The sophomore’s prolific night increased his season goal count exponentially, raising his total from one to four. His offensive contribution was especially timely because of senior defenseman Eric Werner’s absence. In Thursday’s practice, Werner collided with Chad Kolarik and injured his knee. According to Berenson, Werner will be sidelined for approximately two more weeks.
Prior to the games this weekend, Werner had netted five goals this season while the rest of the defensive core had combined for just two.
Appropriately, Werner was the last Wolverine defenseman to register a hat trick. He accomplished the feat in last season’s Great Lakes Invitational against Michigan Tech.
“We were really worried about not having Eric Werner back there tonight,” Berenson said. “He’s our most dangerous offensive defenseman, and he’s a big part of our team. But I thought our defense did a pretty good job without him.”
Hunwick helped to pick up the slack and made his presence felt on the power play — where Werner may be missed the most.
“Coach has been telling the defense to establish our shot on the power play,” Hunwick said. “It makes it a lot easier for our forwards because then (our opponent’s) penalty killers really have to respect us up high, and it gives our forwards a lot more room.”
Hunwick’s hat trick was Michigan’s second this season. Tambellini netted three goals in Michigan’s 5-2 win over Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 5.
After the game, Hunwick said he was not sure if his teammates were focusing on getting him his third goal and even claimed that he was considering passing up the shot, but Gajic was not convinced.
“He was going to shoot every puck he got,” Gajic said right before he turned to Hunwick with a smile on his face. “You’re so full of it.”
First Things First
Matt Hunwick said after Friday’s game that his hat trick may have been his first ever — at any level. This weekend marked a handful of different firsts for the Michigan hockey team. Here’s a look:
Sophomore Jason Dest scored his first goal of the season. The goal was the second of his career.
Forward Brandon Kaleniecki scored goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Last season, he led the team in goals.
Sophomore Mike Brown notched points in both games. It marked the first time that Brown has had points on back-to-back nights. Brown also tallied his first assist of the season on Friday night at Yost.
On Saturday, the Falcons became the first team to score on the Michigan penalty kill in the last 24 attempts against the unit.