In the inaugural game at Yost Ice Arena on Nov. 2, 1973, the Michigan hockey team quickly discovered the home-ice advantage provided by the atmosphere in the barn-shaped confines of Yost.
That night ended with a 6-2 final against Waterloo Lutheran – the Wolverines’ first victory in their new home.
This past Friday, more than 37 years and 720 games after the opening faceoff, Michigan displayed its dominance on home ice again in a landmark victory. In front of a capacity crowd, the tenth-ranked Wolverines pounded Lake Superior State, 7-2, to earn the program’s 500th win at Yost.
After the completion of the series sweep on Saturday, Michigan’s record at Yost stands at 501-187-33.
According to sophomore forward Kevin Lynch, the milestone win for the Wolverines (7-2-1 CCHA, 8-3-3 overall) is a reminder of the program’s successful heritage.
“Coach says that there used to be times where teams came in and they had no chance in our building,” Lynch said on Saturday. “That’s what we want to continue to do here, every team coming in here knowing that they’re going to have a battle.”
The current senior class in particular has seen the benefit of playing at Yost. With a 51-11-4 home record, the fourth-year players have won nearly 80 percent of their games in Ann Arbor.
For senior forward Louie Caporusso, winning isn’t just expected at Yost, it’s tradition.
“This is Yost, this is arguably the best college rink in the nation, so there is no reason that we shouldn’t sweep every team that comes in here,” Caporusso said on Saturday. “They shouldn’t have a chance once we step on the ice.”
HUNWICK GETS HELP: Entering the weekend series against the Lakers (3-6-1, 5-7-2), senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick hadn’t been on the winning end of a game since an Oct. 8 matchup against Bowling Green – the opening series of the season.
Hunwick’s statistics didn’t necessarily merit a 1-2-3 record, but he was not getting support on the other end of the ice. In the four starts since his last victory, the Wolverines had chipped in just eight goals offensively.
Hunwick has been Michigan coach Red Berenson’s Friday-night goaltender in the rotation with senior netminder Bryan Hogan.
But the number of goals with Hunwick in net was almost doubled in Michigan’s win on Friday, when the offense scored early and often en route to a seven-goal onslaught.
“It’s not him that was losing the games for us, we were losing it for him. That can start to get to you after a while,” Caporusso said. “I know it was starting to get to him because he wants to win – he’s a winner – so that was great to see him get a win on Friday.”
Sophomore forward A.J. Treais added: “That (win) is huge for his confidence. He’s been in a lot of close games this year, maybe (the offense) let him down and maybe he let up a few goals that he should have saved, but it’s good that he got a win.”
LYNCH LIGHTING THE LAMP: After going nine games with just two goals to his credit, Lynch has caught fire offensively, scoring three times this past weekend.
Lynch, who scored a career-high two goals on Saturday night, said the difference has been “getting more comfortable and confident with the puck.”
Since reuniting with his former linemates, senior forwards Carl Hagelin and Matt Rust, in the second game against Notre Dame last weekend, Lynch’s chances have been noticeably better.
“He’s working harder, he’s got a little more experience, but he’s playing with two other linemates who are playing well, and his chances are going in,” Berenson said. “I think he can be a legitimate goal-scorer at this level.”
But Berenson said he isn’t counting on Lynch’s line solely for offense – goals are only a byproduct of defensive performance.
“They’ve got some confidence, but they know there is a purpose,” Berenson said after Saturday night’s victory. “They played 90 percent of their shifts tonight against the (first) line, so they were out there for a purpose. So they had to play really good defense and then hopefully translate that into offense.”