Michigan's Hunwick steals the show
ST. PAUL — All it took for Michigan to silence the No. 1-ranked team in the country and a crowd of more than 19,000 was a 5-foot-7 former walk-on goalie who played a total of three minutes in his first two seasons with the Wolverines.
Shawn Hunwick is now a senior, and Michigan coach Red Berenson couldn't have made a better decision than to keep him around.
Hunwick stopped all 40 shots that top-ranked North Dakota threw at him on Thursday. He frustrated a team that averaged more than four goals per game this season and a crowd of 19,139 that was heavily weighted in UND's favor.
Hunwick's performance also lifted the Wolverines (29-10-4) into Saturday's national championship game, at 6 p.m., against Minnesota-Duluth at the Xcel Energy Center.
"Coach always says whatever team has the best goalie is going to win this thing," Michigan freshman defenseman Jon Merrill said, "and I think for sure we have the best goalie right now. It's a lot of weight off our shoulders having a guy like Shawn back there."
Hunwick credited Michigan's defensemen for blocking shots and giving him good looks at most of the 40 shots he faced. He made one tremendous save in the second period, sliding left-to-right to rob UND defenseman Chay Genoway from close range.
Hunwick also made two big saves in the final minute when UND senior forward Evan Trupp had good chances from inside of 15 feet.
"I think I only had the one really good save I had to make (against Genoway)," Hunwick said, "otherwise, I had a lot of good looks and our guys were diving around blocking shots."
North Dakota (32-9-3) doubled Michigan's shots total, 40-20, but the Sioux didn't have many quality scoring chances, thanks to tight defensive play by the Wolverines in their own zone.
"There was no tension on our bench," North Dakota senior defenseman Derrick LaPoint said. "We played a good game, we had our opportunities. Their goaltender was outstanding. It's difficult to lose a game like that and have your career end that way."
Hunwick said he didn't anticipate having to be the difference-maker.
"I didn't feel like I had to come in here and steal a game," he said, "but once I settled in in the second period, I felt like I could do that if I had to."
Faulk has happy return to hometown
Minnesota-Duluth freshman defenseman Justin Faulk grew up just a slapshot away from where the Xcel Energy Center now stands, dreaming of one-day playing in the NHL.
Now the South St. Paul native, and second-round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, has a chance to accomplish another dream, before possibly heading off to play pro hockey. He and his UMD teammates will play for a national college championship on Saturday.
"My family lives five, maybe 10 minutes from here," Faulk said. "To do this and have family and friends here, it's very exciting. I couldn't ask for a better end to the season."
Faulk, 5-feet-11, 200 pounds, is the Bulldogs' top defenseman scorer, with eight goals and 25 assists this season. He assisted on UMD's first three goals in a 4-3 victory against Notre Dame in a national semifinal on Thursday.