Shawn Hunwick says that everybody who plays for the Michigan hockey team has two personalities.
One is the everyday personality. For Hunwick, the fifth-year senior goalie, that personality manifests itself in self-described “goofball-ness.” He’ll make a light comment in an interview or he’ll joke around at home.
Hunwick says his roommate, senior defenseman Greg Pateryn, does the same.
“Away from the rink, Greg’s a pretty lighthearted guy,” Hunwick said. “Likes to have fun, likes to joke around.”
You’ll have to take Hunwick’s word for it because it’s impossible to tell otherwise. At Yost Ice Arena — at a game, at a practice, in an interview — Pateryn’s other personality, his hockey personality, is intense. And it’s unwavering.
Others break character. Junior forward Chris Brown, for instance, can make a big hit one minute and crack a smile the next.
“He takes hockey very seriously,” Hunwick said. “He takes being a leader of this team very seriously. So when he comes to the rink, he’s pretty much all business.”
Pateryn has emerged as just that for Michigan: a leader.
“You can see the way he plays,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “He’s a bull out there. He’s a senior — he’s a man. The way he plays, he’s a great leader on defense.”
A bull indeed. Hunwick said that Pateryn doesn’t lead much with his words, but his play on the ice is loud enough.
Late in the first period against Western Michigan on Friday, Pateryn continuously punished a Bronco forward for about 12 seconds during a penalty kill. He followed each hit with a bigger hit until the opposing skater fell to the ice.
Then with just five minutes remaining in the game, Pateryn put a big hit on another Western Michigan skater that had the Yost crowd on its feet. Michigan lost the game, 3-2, on a last-minute goal, but Pateryn assisted each Wolverine goal.
The two Michigan scorers? Sophomore defensemen Kevin Clare and Mac Bennett. Clare played with Pateryn over the weekend and Bennett is Pateryn’s usual linemate.
Pateryn added two more assists in Saturday’s 5-2 win.
Just one other defenseman on the Michigan roster, junior Lee Moffie, has more than a year’s experience playing college hockey. Pateryn’s experience and leadership have become invaluable for a young defensive unit.
“He leads by example,” said freshman defenseman Mike Chiasson. “Just those little plays on the ice that he can make, whether he holds onto the puck a little bit longer or moves it to the middle guy or hits the post guy on the wall, just something that I can pick up and maybe throw into my game.”
Pateryn’s emergence as a leader comes as a pleasant surprise for Berenson. Pateryn floundered early in his career, shuffling into and out of the lineup as an underclassman.
As recently as last year, Pateryn struggled. He didn’t even make the dress list for the Big Chill at the Big House in December.
“That’s really what is the rewarding part of coaching,” Berenson said. “Seeing a kid like Greg Pateryn. He might have been a step slow, his weight, his conditioning, his foot speed, and his agility, and his puck handling and on and on. And now look at him.
“Our team won’t win without Greg Pateryn playing well.”
With the suspension of sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill, the defense had to rely on Pateryn as a leader and its best defender.
“This year, without Jonny Merrill, Pateryn … he has just taken over,” Berenson said.
But before the season began, the team wondered whether Pateryn could handle the load.
“When Jonny (Merrill) went out, we were a little nervous,” Hunwick said. “But then Mac (Bennett) and Greg stepped up and played unbelievable. Greg’s sitting there with 10 points, and Mac’s got nine, 10 games into the season, which is kind of unexpected.”
Bennett said that the two make ideal linemates because they have complimentary styles. Bennett likes to attack. Pateryn usually plays more conservatively, so Bennett can be free to create up the ice knowing that Pateryn will be there to save him, if necessary.
So far, it’s worked. Pateryn’s 10 points put him in a tie for second most on the team, just three behind junior forward Lindsay Sparks, and Bennett has recorded just one less point than Pateryn.
Off the ice, Pateryn remains as serious as ever.
Hunwick finds that funny.
“I’m his roommate, so I see his joking side,” Hunwick said. “He’s not always so serious — which is nice back at the house.”