by Bob Miller / Michigan Beat Writer
Exactly eight days after laying a huge pre-Easter egg against Western Michigan in the CCHA playoff semifinals, Michigan played arguably the best game of their season, defeating Colorado College, 2-1, in the NCAA West Regional final in St. Louis.
The win earned the Wolverines a berth in the Frozen Four semifinals on April 7 in St. Paul, Minnesota, against the winner of Sunday's NCAA regional tussle between Denver and North Dakota.
Despite the slim one-goal margin, Michigan play dominantly offensively and nearly completely shut down Colorado College's freshman phenom, Jaden Schwartz.
"Obviously this was great, but this was about our team and the University of Michigan," said Red Berenson, referring to his NHL playing and coaching days in St. Louis. "My history is really irrelevant in terms of this building. We just wanted to get through the first game. For Colorado College to score like they did last night against arguably the best team in college hockey, might have put the fear of God in our team and made us play better out of respect. It's a good win for Michigan.
"I think we were prepared tonight. I talked to Coach (Billy) Powers and he looked at video and did a good job preparing our penalty killers. When they did get shots Shawn (Hunwick) was there. As much as we survived it, I thought we did a much better job on the PK than we did last time we played them over the Christmas break.
"I can't tell you that we tried to play any differently than we normally play, but I can tell you that I wasn't the only one to watch the game. All the players watched it on television back in the hotel and when you watch a game like that you really get a sense of respect for a team that you may not have gotten otherwise. The way that team went was just remarkable. I will say that when you score that many goals on one night, you can't buy one the next night and that's what happened tonight."
Scooter Vaughan (pictured), who showed his flexibility in a number of roles during the game, opened the scoring for Michigan barely two minutes into the game. Defenseman Lee Moffie had the other Wolverine goal to build a 2-0 lead.
Michigan then played strongly on offense, defense and special teams, narrowly failing to convert numerous scoring chances.
"It was a 2 on 4," said Vaughan, starting to describe his opening goal. "I really didn't notice it was that way. I knew my man was a little flat-footed. I just used my speed and got by him and got a good shot off above his glove.
"We knew that (Colorado College) are a good team. The line of the Schwartz brothers and Shultz we knew we had to shut them down and get on the boards. We got on them early and we had some great goalkeeping."
Shawn Hunwick provided that goaltending, holding the Tigers off the board until late in the third period, including the duration of a key penalty kill in the game's closing moments.
"I think they did have a few pretty good shots early on, but this is an opportunity to play for the Frozen Four," Hunwick pointed out. "I think I made a couple good saves. It's pretty easy to stay in the game when you're playing to go to the Frozen Four. They didn't really get anything going too much until they got into the power play. Once they got into the power play, I really had to be sharp."
"I say it all the time; I'm still shell-shocked," continued Hunwick. "I can't believe I'm playing hockey for Michigan. I'm so happy that Coach (Berenson) gave me the opportunity to come here and play for Michigan. To go back to the Frozen Four twice is something that my brother (Matt, who played defense for Michigan) was never able to do, even once, which is nice for me, but I'll give him a call tonight and remind him of that. I got texts tonight from guys who've played in the past. We're just happy that we can go back not only for us, but for our program and future players. It's a great tool for recruiting; I can't wait to be there."
Hunwick WILL be there on April 7 with the rest of his Wolverine teammates.
photo courtesy University of Michigan Athletics