Uh, yeah, you can’t do that

There’s an old saying in the U.P. — “Holy wah!” That pretty much sums up Friday night’s CCHA opener between Northern Michigan and the University of Michigan hockey teams.

As I expected, Northern came out the stronger of the two teams. They’ve already faced two tough opponents in Wisconsin and St. Cloud State and they’re always fired up when Michigan comes to town (for what may be the last time, too). The Wolverines have feasted on cup cakes so far in the friendly confines of Yost Ice Arena and got a bit of a wake up call playing the physical, grinding style NMU likes. 

Freshman Phil Di Giuseppe took a penalty 5:38 in to the game and the Wildcats immediately set the tone for the evening. Though they didn’t score on the power play, U-M goalie Shawn Hunwick had to come up with three or four good saves.

Throughout the rest of the period, the Wildcats controlled more of the play. They did a much better job getting shots on goal, getting traffic in front of net, setting up in the U-M zone, holding the puck in, and simply outworking the Wolverines. Michigan only had a couple of quick strike scoring chances, one of which was right in front of the net but A.J. Treais couldn’t get a good shot off. I think the end of the period really summed it up as Michigan was on the power play and in the closing seconds of the period it was NMU causing turnovers and ending up with two good scoring chances that Hunwick had to stop.

The shots on goal in the first stanza were 13-7 in favor of NMU. When you factor in all shot attempts, NMU had 21 to Michigan’s 12. One look at the shot chart shows it heavily favoring the Wildcats. The Wolverines side looks pretty bare. NMU fired seven shots on goal from between the circles, six of which Hunwick had to save and the other hit the post. NMU likes to work it down low and they were playing their style of game.

The Wildcats picked up where they left off. After the NMU penalty that carried over expired, the Wildcats had a 3-on-2 rush and fired a shot from between the circles that missed just wide.

As I noted in my live blog, the Wolverines just weren’t that sharp up until this point. A lot of passes were off target or ending up in the skates of their teammates rather than on their sticks, and they weren’t getting a lot of offensive production. The Wolverines went on another power play and literally did not set up at all in the NMU zone the whole two minutes. Lindsay Sparks skated in and threw a shot on net and that was it.

At 10:45 of the second period, all hell broke loose.  I will explain the whole situation in detail below, but the end result was this—Luke Moffatt got a five minute major for fighting and game disqualification. Shawn Hunwick got a major for contact to the head and a game misconduct. NMU’s Andrew Cherniwchan got a major and game DQ for fighting, and Reed Seckel got a double minor for boarding and roughing the goalie.  Moffatt and Cherniwchan are out for Saturday’s game. Hunwick may or may not be out, pending a league review of the incident.

This forced backup Adam Janecyk in to action, and he was throw right in to the fire. After play resumed with 4-on-4 action, NMU’s Tyler Gron skated right up the middle of the ice in to the U-M zone untouched and fired a shot from between the circles that Janecyk stopped between the five hole and the rebound was cleared out. After the double minor to Reed expired, NMU went on a one minute power play and capitalized when Dylan Walchuk’s shot from the right circle went off a Michigan player in front and redirected in to the net to give NMU a 1-0 lead.

Michigan only needed 34 seconds to answer as right after the major penalty expired, Sparks, who was serving the penalty, emerged from the box and took a pass up the middle from David Wohlberg, sending him in on a breakaway and he beat NMU goalie Reid Ellingson in the top left corner.  But seven seconds later, the Wildcats retook the lead when Matt Thurber found the back of the net.

The first ten minutes of the period was the standard fare.  The between the fight and three goals in 41 seconds, the last ten minutes were crazy.

Playing 4-on-4 hockey to start the period, NMU struck just 1:01 in to the period. Mitch Jones fired a one-timer from the top of the blue line in to a pretty wide open net as it didn’t appear Janecyk had any idea where the puck was. Just about everyone seemed to write off the Wolverines by this point. NMU had been outplaying them the entire game then struck early. Janecyk, though he did have a few good saves, had given up a few bad goals.  The Wildcats looked to be cruising to victory.

The Wolverines troubles continued as 30 seconds after the goal Kevin Lynch was called for elbowing, then shortly after his penalty expired Lee Moffie went to the box for roughing.

After killing off those penalties, U-M got a opportunity as Northern got called for back-to-back penalties, which also gave them a short 5-on-3 power play.  But Michigan again was unsuccessful with the man-advantage. In fact, they didn’t even register a shot on goal during it.

Michigan finally got things going at 13:08 when freshman Zach Hyman netted his first career goal without even knowing it. Sparks skated in to the NMU zone and had his shot blocked. The puck came back out in front where Hyman knocked it past Ellingson, but the puck was in and out of the net so fast (I think an NMU player swiped it out back between the circles) and Hyman had his back turned. He was looking for the puck thinking play was still going on. After about five seconds he realized the red light was on and raised his arms to celebrate.

Down only one goal, the Wolverines finally started to play with a sense of urgency, and three minutes later Travis Lynch knocked in a loose puck off a shot by Brennan Serville that was blocked in front to tie the game.  It was simply amazing to think after playing like garbage for nearly 50 minutes and losing their starting goalie, the Wolverines somehow rallied to tie the game in just a few minutes.

But the excitement was short lived. Just 1:22 after the Lynch goal, Tyler Gron skated in to the Michigan zone on the right side, pulled up along the half boards, and just threw a wrist shot at Janecyk that cleanly beat him short side.  I have no idea why Janecyk slid to his right when the shot was made.  This was a really bad goal at the worst time, too. NMU retook the lead, 4-3. The Wolverines tried to rally once more, but Justin Florek added an empty net goal to seal the deal.

Shots on goal: Northern Michigan 32, Michigan 27
Saves: Ellingson 24/27, Hunwick 17/17, Janecyk 10/14
Power Play
: Northern Michigan 1-for-7, Michigan 0-for-6
Penalties: Northern Michigan 13 for 37 min, Michigan 11 for 44 min

I watched this a few times in the press box. The video was Michigan’s single cam they use to record games (not for Wolverine Sports Mag or whatever it is these days, but for team use).

NMU’s Andrew Cherniwchan had a break and was skating in from the left side on Hunwick. Just as he let the shot go from outside the left hash mark, Lee Moffie, who was rushing back, got his hands on him and took Cherniwchan down.  Cherniwchan and Moffie went sliding in to the far post and took the net off as Hunwick jumped to avoid them and he spun down to the ice. Meanwhile, Reed Seckel came flying in and nailed a Michigan player in to the boards in the corner. This caused all the players to rush to the corner and started the scrum.

Cherniwchan got up and decided to skate to the corner to help out his teammates, only he went through the goal crease as Hunwick was still on the ground. On the video I saw, which was zoomed out, it appeared Hunwick didn’t like this and grabbed Cherniwchan by the legs or stuck his stick in his legs. Cherniwchan got tangled up by this. Hunwick got to his feet, as did Cherniwchan, and Shawn socked him in the chin. There’s no other way to put it. Hunwick punched him. It reminded me of Shawn punching Dustin Gazley at Michigan State last season, which did not result in a game misconduct. Cherniwchan never attempted to fight Shawn and turned away after he got punched. Luke Moffatt came flying out of the corner and leveled Cherniwchan to the ice, causing the melee to ensue.  Fists up, players grabbing each other, Hunwick may or may not have thrown another punch—someone said he threw another and Seckel did end up with a minor for roughing the goalie, so maybe that was it—but he did punt an NMU player’s helmet half way across the ice. Cherniwchan and Moffatt wrestled to the ground.

After everything settled down and a long discussion among the officials, Hunwick ended up with a major and game misconduct, and he was still hot as he was exiting the ice.

Simply put, Shawn lost his cool. Big time. We know he’s a feisty goalie. He’s shown that in the past. But this went beyond that tonight, and he deserved to be tossed for it. If he doesn’t like someone coming through his crease, fine. Want to have a few words with him, fine. But to take Cherniwchan down then sock him in the face out in the open clear as day?  Sorry, that’s not going to fly no matter who you are.

The other thing I found interesting about the whole incident is that the guy who started the whole chain reaction by knocking Cherniwchan down and sending him in to the net—Lee Moffie—wasn’t called for anything. So maybe his take down was legal? And Cherniwchan went sliding through Hunwick and in to the post and wasn’t called for running the goalie (it was NOT intentional anyway). Seckel hits a Wolverine hard into the boards after the whistle, plus gets in to it with Hunwick and he ends up with a double minor. Okay. Hunwick socks Cherniwchan and gets a major and game misconduct. Okay. Moffatt decks Cherniwchan and gets a game DQ. Okay. Cherniwchan gets beat up twice and gets a game DQ. Huh?

After the game Hunwick posted the following on his Twitter account:

I want to apologize to the michigan fans in attendance tonight. I play on a edge and my emotions got the best of me. It is unacceptable as a Student athlete who represents the university of michigan and college hockey as a whole.

Hunwick knows he did wrong.  I hope he gets a shot at redemption tomorrow night, but right now that’s in the hands of the CCHA.

So why all the confusion on Hunwick’s status?
Hunwick’s status for tomorrow’s game probably flip flopped 800 times. They originally announced it as a contact to the head major and game misconduct, but the live stats sheet had it as fighting.  Fighting would carry an automatic game disqualification. Then it got changed to what they announced.

During the second intermission, CCHA commissioner Fred Pletsch came over to talk to the Michigan guys next to me and myself and Mining Journal reporter Matt Wellens overheard him say, “Hunwick’s out” for tomorrow.  After Fred left, I asked them Hunwick’s out tomorrow.  They said yes.  I asked if that means it got changed to a fighting penalty and they said yes.

After the game was over, I asked one of the Michigan guys again and he said Hunwick was in for Saturday and that Pletsch had accidentally mixed up the players who got the game misconduct (Hunwick) and game disqualification (Moffatt).

On the official score sheet, it’s down as contact to the head and game misconduct, which means Hunwick is in tomorrow.  However, we were then told all game misconducts are reviewed by the league office (head of officials Steve Piotrowski and probably Pletsch, too) that it was already being reviewed. So pending the outcome of that, we won’t know until Saturday if Hunwick will be available or not.

This is CCHA hockey. It’s a battle every night. Every team is as good as the other team. You can’t play a game from the penalty box, that’s number one. We lost a key face off that cost us a goal. Little things like that, that’s the difference in the game.” – Red Berenson on tonight’s game

That’s something we’ve talked about at practice, but you have to get in to the fire before you realize it. We’re talking about it. We’re reminding them. We went through this all last year. That’s what it’s like in the CCHA. Our upperclassmen have to set the tone. Maybe a couple of penalties that were near the board—like I told our team “stop hitting.” Literally stop hitting along the boards. They’re calling everything. We’re not trying to take penalties. We’re not trying to retaliate or being retaliated against. Hockey’s a game of emotion, you just have to play with more control.” – Red Berenson on calming his team down

“We can’t have our senior captain—one of our captains—lose his cool like that, no matter what happens. We’ll address that.” – Red Berenson on Shawn Hunwick’s incident