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February 4, 2012

Hunwick earns shutout as U-M sweeps Miami

Michigan completed a sweep of Miami with a 3-0 victory over the RedHawks Saturday night in a contest that featured more bad officiating and a waning-moments melee. But the important thing is U-M came away with three points ...

First Period Analysis: Where to start? How about with a penalty because there were plenty of them - six on Michigan and three on Miami, but the RedHawks enjoyed the clear power-play advantage, 4-1, and really that was the story of the first period. MU seemingly getting favorable calls and U-M, despite the protest of its captains and a displeasured crowd that vulgarly voiced its opinion, was stuck spending most of the first 20 minutes a man down.

That didn't stop the Wolverines from taking a 1-0 lead into intermission, though, scoring a shorthanded marker at 7:17 when a Miami turnover led to a 3-on-1 the other way. Senior forward Luke Glendening, breaking down the right wing, threaded a pass across the ice to junior defenseman Lee Moffie, who went nearside top corner to beat RedHawk goalie Connor Knapp.

Both teams would finish with 13 shots in the period, but Miami had far better scoring chances, and each time, Michigan senior netminder Shawn Hunwick rose to the occasion. He was outstanding.

Sophomore Derek DeBlois also had a strong first 20 minutes, seeing most of his time on the penalty kill. The forward was relentless in his pursuit of the puck, and had a number of important clears.

Second Period Analysis: Miami had tried to establish its aggressive forecheck in the first period, but thanks to its power-play chances, never really had to. In the second, the RedHawks opened up again trying to be the aggressor, but the Maize and Blue were ready for them, matching MU skate for skate.

Michigan would take a 2-0 lead 3:13 into the period, scoring just moments after its man-advantage expired when some nifty passing from sophomore Luke Moffatt to junior A.J. Treais to Moffie, gliding into the slot, ended up in Knapp's five-hole.

Moffie almost had his hat trick in the closing seconds, but didn't get good wood on a pass out front.

Third Period Analysis: The goal was simple and executed beautifully - think defense first, clear and dump the puck, and turn that into offense when the numbers favored the Wolverines. Mission accomplished. U-M limited Miami to a few decent scoring chances, but the RedHawks' best would prove controversial.

Around the 10-minute mark, with Michigan on the power play, sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill broke his stick at the point and went to retrieve a new one unaware there had been a turnover leading to a breakaway for MU forward Matt Tomassoni. He made a move and had enough left on his shot for it to squirt between Hunwick's legs, but Moffie was there to swipe it away before it completely crossed the goal line.

Miami coach Enrico Blasi went nuts, and at the next stoppage of play, referee Brian Hill, who had waived off the goal thanks to perfect positioning behind the net, took a look at a replay and ruled it no goal. Blasi threw a hissy fit of epic proportions, and even convinced Hill to take a second, unprecedented, look. The call was the same, eliciting another tantrum.

But that was that and the Wolverines would score at 13:44 on a goal that should be the top play on SportsCenter. Junior forward Chris Brown undressed MU defender Will Weber - the object of the crowd's ridicule after his dirty play this weekend - sliding the puck to his right and then through Weber's legs before firing top right corner for a 3-0 lead.

Unfortunately, a frustrated and undisciplined Miami team began taking more liberties as the final minutes descended into chaos. The ugly result was five-minute fighting majors and game disqualifications (neither can play in their team's next contest) for Weber and Brown.

The good news is Michigan got the sweep, moving up from sixth to third place in the CCHA standings, three points back of first-place Ferris State and one back of second-place Western Michigan.

First Star: Moffie was voted the first star, thanks to his two goals, and Hunwick was the official second star after recording the shutout with 29 saves, but my star goes to DeBlois, who was fantastic on a penalty kill unit that killed off six chances. DeBlois doesn't have great speed or skills, but he has heart and determination, and both came in handy Saturday.

Great effort by DeBlois and great work by Michigan's PK all weekend.

Quotable:

Lee Moffie on having to kill six power plays: "You're playing a team like Miami, the stakes are pretty high, the game is emotional, but something we've had trouble with all year is Shawn getting bumped, and that's something we're getting penalties after the whistle."

On the first of his two goals: "The big thing about 2-on-1s is they're a lot more productive when the pass is made early. That's what Luke did and that's what we've been working on. He made the pass just after we crossed the blue line, and the goalie didn't do a great job moving over so I had a lot of net to shoot at."

Shawn Hunwick on Brown's goal: "That was an unbelievable play. Once you beat a guy like that it's really hard to make the save as the goalie, especially when it's their best defenseman - their goalie was probably caught off guard. You dangle a guy like that and your confidence is through the roof, and the goalie is thinking 'Oh crap, here it comes.' It was just an unbelievable play by Brown."

On avoiding the final-minutes melee that MU netminder Connor Knapp engaged in: [Sarcastically] "You know how big he is? It was 4-on-3 so I knew what he was doing. He was getting in there to even things up. You see that all the time in hockey. Even if he made it 5-on-4, he's pretty big so I don't know if I would have trekked down there."

Head coach Red Berenson's opening statement: "Don't ask me about the officiating."

Berenson on U-M's penalty-kill success: "We were trying to play with a discipline against a team that was on the edge and a team that was frustrated because they lost last night. At one point the penalties were 6-2 and we had to kill all those penalties against a real good power play. Whether it was goalkeeping or just everyone sucking it up and blocking shots, and winning faceoffs, and clearing the puck. I thought we did a lot of good things in the game.

"We should not have to kill that many penalties in a game like that."

Berenson on emotions escalating to a brouhaha at the end: "It was the way the game was being handled. It's really too bad that happens. A smart coach knows how important his players are and they need to stay in the game, and when a team has a non-conference weekend the next weekend, they might take liberties, and maybe they did, but we're the ones who are going to pay for it.

"There is a lot of emption on the ice. We played a good game, disappointing that happened at the end. The score was out of reach. That stuff shouldn't happen. There is no fighting in college hockey. Let's face it, if you want to have a fight go out in the parking lot after the game."


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