MARQUETTE — Until Saturday night, the Michigan hockey team had only been in three shootouts since the CCHA first implemented the concept in 2008 to settle tied games. And in those three years, the Wolverines had never won one.
That’s why Michigan coach Red Berenson has him team go through a shootout simulation in its last practice of every week. More important than making the team feel comfortable should the situation arise, it gives Berenson a chance to evaluate who would take the shots.
The Wolverines entered its weekend series against Northern Michigan (1-0-1, 4-1-1) with plenty of goals behind their belt, but still no go-to scorer. So when the situation actually arose after Saturday night’s scoreless overtime against the Wildcats, Berenson still had no clue who he wanted to take the shots. And he had to come up with names — fast.
“We weren’t even thinking about going into a shootout,” Berenson said. “I want to use players that have confidence, that are playing well and scoring.”
That’s how he settled on two of his shooters — junior forwards Lindsay Sparks and A.J. Treais.
Treais scored the Wolverines’ first goal of the evening and Sparks’ goal three minutes later extended his current game point streak to three — the two were the ideal “snipers” that Berenson wanted to take the shots.
But freshman forward Phil Di Giuseppe was a less obvious choice. Di Giuseppe didn’t tally any points this weekend and hasn’t seen as much game action as Treais or Sparks. But that’s why Berenson thought he would be most advantageous.
“Di Giuseppe has been one our good young players,” Berenson said. “I thought he might be able to surprise the goalie.”
Wildcat goalkeeper Jared Coreau didn’t seem too surprised after Di Giuseppe and Sparks both tried and missed. Michigan (0-1-1 CCHA, 4-1-1 overall) had scouted Coreau and knew he had a “weak glove,” according to Sparks. But Coreau was easily able to read their moves as they skated down the ice.
Di Giuseppe backhanded the puck into the Coreau’s blocker and Sparks’ shot hit him squarely in the chest.
Treais learned he would be the third to take the ice just about 40 seconds before he actually went out. And that didn’t leave him much time to come up with an idea.
“I didn’t really have a plan going in there,” Treais said. “I saw a little spot (in the goal) and picked it.”
And although Treais was the only Wolverine to score during the shootout, the team also gives credit to fifth-year senior goalie Shawn Hunwick, who is known for his ability to perform in big games. Saturday was no exception — he blocked all the shots he faced during the shootout.
In fact, he only had to save two shots — the Wildcats’ first shot went wide. The other two shots were denied by Hunwick’s blocker. During the unfamiliar situation, his presence on the ice provided a sense of ease for Michigan.
“He took us to the Frozen Four last year,” Treais said. “I think everyone’s got confidence in him.”