Michigan hockey's unlikely star, Shawn Hunwick, comes up big again
Hunwick was prepared to finish his career in juniors and go to Division III Adrian. The best he’d do is likely sit in Yost Ice Arena as a fan. Then one day, the summer before he was going to leave for Adrian, he got a call.
Michigan wanted him.
“Shawn just called us and said, ‘Oh, they need a third goalie,’” Hunwick’s father, Rich, said outside the team bus Friday night. “It was because somebody left.”
Michigan’s third goalie, Steve Jakiel, was gone. So they called up the kid brother of their defensive captain, Matt Hunwick, and asked if he wanted to play.
Of course he did. No one in that conversation ever thought he’d reach this moment, the MVP of the CCHA tournament after a 2-1 win over Northern Michigan and one of the main reasons Michigan will play in its 20th straight NCAA tournament next week.
Even a month ago, when starter Bryan Hogan was playing and starting every game while Hunwick sat on the bench, it seemed far-fetched he’d ever start.
Then Hogan pulled a groin against Notre Dame on Feb. 25.
“We had our fingers crossed,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
Maybe fingers, toes and shoelaces. The Wolverines would need a walk-on to save their disappointing season.
Seven wins later, he stood on the ice accepting the MVP trophy and then walked outside in his gray suit, almost immediately lost in the throng of people, before his father found him. Rich Hunwick yelled out ‘Whoo’ and hugged his son, the most improbable Most Valuable Player on the most improbable Michigan team to make the NCAAs in this 20-year run.
His journey, even throughout this year, was rough. Before Hogan went down, Hunwick played 18 minutes all season. He wasn’t happy about it. Michigan’s coaching staff - which wanted to test him a little bit to see if what they saw in practice would be confirmed in a game - wanted him to get ice time.
And he heard from friends and others about not playing.
“A lot of people say, ‘You’re a backup at Michigan, doesn’t it suck that you’re not playing,’” Hunwick said. “Let’s be honest. It’s a huge honor to be playing for Michigan, second goalie, third goalie, first goalie. Just playing for coach Berenson and Michigan is a huge honor.”
Also, a huge responsibility. When he was thrown in to the Notre Dame game, he waited five minutes to make his first save. He didn’t have time to think what was happening.
That first game, his parents didn’t even know he was playing. A friend texted them to turn on the television. Two days later, in his first start at Notre Dame, Rich Hunwick couldn’t make the game because he was working.
There was no way they were going to miss Saturday night, though. Rich Hunwick was there, moving from one end of the ice to the other depending on the period. Shawn Hunwick looks for him in the stands periodically, Rich said, a tradition started when Shawn was little.
Now, he was on the ice, looking around as his teammates surrounded him, searching for his dad.
It hadn’t sunk in for Shawn yet. His dad, either.
“It’s almost like I’ve got to rewatch it, you know,” Rich said. “It’s a bit of a blur.”
What he’ll see is his son join a list of names he never thought he’d be on.
Steve Shields. Marty Turco. Al Montoya. Josh Blackburn. Billy Sauer.
And now add to that list the 5-foot-7 - and that’s being extremely generous - Hunwick.
“Let’s be honest,” Hunwick said. “I’m not on their level at all. I don’t even know if I’m on Bryan Hogan’s level. Those guys are unbelievable goalies.
“I think the only thing we’re going to share in my whole career is probably the CCHA championship.”
For Michigan, right now, the Wolverines will take it. So will Hunwick, who is following up on his most unlikely of opportunities.
“No, I don’t think any of us thought he would (play like this) night after night but good for him,” Berenson said. “You never know. That’s one thing I’ve learned as a coach.
“You never know about a player, you never know what’s inside of him, until he really gets a chance.”