At the Columbus Blue Jackets' morning skate, goalie Steve Mason was knocked out by a Colton Gillies shot off the mask. And while Shawn Hunwick isn't the type to wish injury upon others, there's no question the former Michigan Wolverine's surreal and remarkable career has benefited from them.
Hunwick will back up goalie Allan York for the Blue Jackets at the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, signing an amateur tryout contract five days after playing his final game with the Wolverines — an overtime loss to Cornell in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA tournament.
Via Shawn Mitchell of the Dispatch, GM Scott Howson said:
"He's had to fight for everything he's gotten and had to overcome a lot of things. We had to get somebody in tonight. He was available, but we would consider signing him for rest of year, too."
If you're unfamiliar with Hunwick's story, it's a sports fable.
The younger brother of Matt Hunwick of the Colorado Avalanche, he's listed at 5-foot-7 but might be about two inches shorter. But his stature isn't the only thing that made him "hockey's Rudy" in the eyes of NCAA fans.
(By the way: The Avs face the Jackets on April 5.)
He was brought on by Red Berenson as a walk-on third goalie in 2007-08, and then was red-shirted the next season. He didn't see his first win until an appearance with Michigan on senior night against Notre Dame in 2010, when starter Bryan Hogan suffered a groin injury. Hunwick helped Michigan win the CCHA tournament that year and won tournament MVP.
As a junior, Hunwick again benefitted from Hogan's injuries — not only appearing in the Big Chill against Michigan State but backstopping the Wolverines all the way to the NCAA championship game, where they lost in overtime. He led them back to the tournament again this season, playing in 40 games with a 2.00 GAA and earning a Hobey Baker nomination.
From a definitive article on Hunwick from Everett Cook of the Michigan Daily:
This happening at a storied program with some of the best recruiting in the nation is inexplicable. How does a player who stumbles onto the team land himself atop Michigan's all-time goals against average and save percentage? "As a coach, it just shows you — we don't know everything," Berenson said. "You don't know everything about your players, you don't know what's inside a kid and you don't know what the possibilities are."
Again, read the Cook article. It's a hell of a tale.
Sure, it's an amateur contract, and a backup goalie spot on a team miles away from the playoffs late in the season. But Shawn Hunwick's achievement here can't be ignored; nor can the fact that he brings excitement and a champion's heart to a team that could use a bit of both.
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