Shawn Hunwick has done his part to ensure senior night isn't a big deal
When Shawn Hunwick joined the Michigan hockey team as an unheralded, unrecruited walk-on, he harbored hope that by his final year in Ann Arbor he might be able to get some minutes on senior night.
Hunwick thought that if he stuck with it, worked hard in practice and proved a capable backup throughout his career, the coaching staff might throw him a bone and let him skate with his classmates one final time in front of the home crowd at Yost Ice Arena.
When Hunwick takes the ice against Northern Michigan on Saturday (5:05 p.m., FSD), it won’t be a feel-good cameo. He’ll do so as the heart and soul of the Michigan hockey team.
One of four seniors to be honored as part of senior night on Saturday, the loudest ovation from the Yost faithful will likely be for Hunwick, the team’s lone Hobey Baker candidate.
AnnArbor.com file photo
It’s a far cry from Hunwick’s first ever appearance on senior night two years ago, when he filled in for an injured Bryan Hogan and recorded his first ever win. At the time, Hunwick -- now a fifth year senior -- didn’t think he’d even be on the team for the 2011-12 season.
“I didn’t think I’d still be here for a fifth year. I wasn’t planning on that until I started to play, so it’s crazy,” Hunwick said. “Getting thrown into that game, before that I pretty much thought my career was going to be over. I was going to be a career backup and I was fine with that.”
He certainly didn’t think he’d be the Wolverines all-time leader in save percentage (.927) and goals against average (2.09) and in the top 10 for both wins and shutouts.
He’s not the only one. Coach Red Berenson is the first to admit he never would have guessed Hunwick would be where he is today. He gets a child-like grin when talking about the journey Hunwick’s made since filling in on an emergency basis two years ago.
“I think that’s the trouble with coaches. You pigeon-hole players. I mean this guy, he this and he’s that and Shawn was our third goalie,” Berenson said. “Usually a third goalie is lucky to be in any games and if he’s really lucky he’ll play in some games and usually he doesn’t start in a game.”
The stars aligned for Hunwick. Hogan outplayed him at the beginning of last year before another injury -- and Hunwick’s play during said injury -- gave him the job again.
Even coming into this year, Hunwick’s spot wasn’t guaranteed until top prospect John Gibson decommitted from Michigan to turn pro.
"You talk about taking advantage of opportunities, and he's doing it," Berenson said.
When asked about his feelings about Saturday, Hunwick downplayed the significance. Because of how’s he’s played since that first senior night, he’s done his part to make sure Saturday isn’t that significant.
Because of Michigan’s positioning in the CCHA standings, it’s not likely to be his last game at Yost, and if Hunwick and the Wolverines continue to play as they have, there is still a lot of hockey left to play this year.
If you would have asked him two years ago if he'd be announced as the starter on his own senior night, Hunwick would have called you crazy.
“I never thought I’d be appearing in so many games, so many big games for this team,” Hunwick said. “It’s been an unbelievable journey. It’s been a lot of fun.”