Shawn Hunwick hears it at the rink. He hears it at home.

His friends and people on the street ask him, “What the hell is going on?”

The winless streak looms over the fifth-year senior goalie and the rest of the No. 19 Michigan hockey team wherever they go.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a stretch like this in my career — college, juniors, growing up,” Hunwick said. “You lose six games in a row, no one’s happy.”

The Wolverines (3-5-2 CCHA, 7-7-2 overall) traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska on Wednesday with their longest winless streak in over a decade. If they were swept again this weekend, you’d have to look all the way back to the late 1980s to find a longer skid.

Michigan, a program that has known only victory for most of its existence, has hosted an uninvited guest at Yost Ice Arena the past few weeks: the culture of losing.

That culture has crept into the details, players said, especially defensively. It’s in the mental mistakes and turnovers that cost games — like when junior forward A.J. Treais failed to lift the stick of his man in the crease against Union last weekend.

It’s in the hustle and precision necessary to win. Sophomore defenseman Mac Bennett said that the team has been too reckless on defense. The defensemen charge 50-50 loose pucks without a forward back to help on the zone. When the defenders provide on-puck help, the forwards fail to mark the open opponents.

“You gotta pay more attention to detail,” Bennett said. “That may be an area where we’re lacking. It’s a little bit of hustle, it’s a little bit of thinking, and when you give two-on-ones to the other team, more times than not they’re going to put it in the back of your net.”

The culture has invaded the psyche of the team. Junior forward Chris Brown spoke of a snowball effect after Sunday’s loss to Union. One mistake led to another, which led to several more.

“If you look at the games, lately it’s been like one thing happens and it’s going downhill,” Hunwick said.

After what Michigan coach Red Berenson and several players called one of the best eight minutes of hockey the team has played all year, the Wolverines crumbled after surrendering an easy goal to Union.

Berenson referenced former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler’s “Sudden Change” drills. Schembechler would mentally prepare his teams for an abrupt swing in the game and coach them to regain the momentum. Schembechler, in the book he co-authored with John Bacon “Bo’s Lasting Lessons,” explained that he would challenge his teams, “Do you collapse like most teams do? Or do you rise to the occasion and turn the tide.”

Berenson asked the same of his squad.

“We’re trying to overcome your reaction to a goal against or something bad,” Berenson said. “Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong.”

Yet the trip to Alaska provides a chance to wipe the slate clean.

As Hunwick explained, nobody walking down the street in Fairbanks will ask him what’s wrong. For the first time during the winless streak, the team has a chance to get away.

Berenson will take the team curling and on an expedition to see the Alaska Pipeline, as he does every year. Other than that, there’s not much to do in Alaska other than think about hockey.

“I think it’ll be good for us to be on the road,” Bennett said. “Go off pretty much into the wilderness and find ourselves.”

The Wolverines have performed well historically against the Nanooks, posting a 41-9-1 record in the all-time series.

And the battered defense gets to face an Alaska-Fairbanks team (3-7-2, 6-8-2) that ranks second-to-last in the CCHA in scoring offense and that has been less than effective on the power play.

Berenson suspects that Michigan is better than it has shown.

“We’re not far off the mark,” Berenson said “We’re not a hopeless team. I know we’re pretty thin in some ways, but I think we’ve got players that will play better.”

Friday’s game takes on added importance, both in terms of gaining ground in the conference standings and in terms of psyche.

“I would be disappointed if we didn’t come back with six points,” said senior forward David Wohlberg. “That’s what we need to get on track. I don’t like getting swept, I don’t like splitting series.”

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