This Week
This Week in the CCHA

College Hockey:
Michigan surging in second half again, but there’s more to the story

After Michigan beat Miami last Saturday night to complete a two-game sweep, Red Berenson wanted to make something very clear. “Don’t ask me about the officiating,” Berenson said as he opened the postgame news conference.

Turns out, no one needed to ask.

“We were trying to play with discipline against a team that was on the edge and a team that was frustrated because they lost last night and we ended up getting it,” said Berenson. “At one point, the penalties were six to two and we had to kill all those penalties against a real good power play. Whether it was goalkeeping or just 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.

“You shouldn’t have to kill that many penalties in a game like that.”

That’s Red Berenson not talking about the officiating.

Here’s a little disclaimer. This story was going to be about Michigan’s second-half resurgence, an act the Wolverines seem to play to perfection. After a 7-1-2 start to the season, the Wolverines found themselves on a seven-game winless streak (0-6-1) until a 1-0 win over Alaska on Dec. 3 — and they’ve lost just once since, going 10-1-2 in their last 13. In the process, Michigan has climbed the league standings from eighth to third, and the Wolverines are three points behind first-place Ferris State.

That’s a story worthy of attention at this point in the season. That story, however, isn’t nearly as good as this one.

After the Wolverines beat the RedHawks 4-1 Friday night, Berenson had some interesting words for the press. Quoted in a story by Peter Cunningham that appeared on AnnArbor.com, Berenson expressed his displeasure by what he said is ongoing, unnecessary physical contact with Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick, contact initiated by CCHA opponents.

“We’ll keep sending the information to the league,” said Berenson, “but the league has to respond. I don’t know that they’ve done a good job so far.”

That’s Red Berenson saying that maybe the league hasn’t done a good job so far.

Hunwick was roughed up in Friday’s game, once losing his helmet, another time knocked to the ice. Saturday’s game was another story altogether. With one minute remaining in regulation and the Wolverines leading 3-0, an altercation behind the Miami net stopped the play for several minutes. When it was all over, Michigan’s second-leading scorer, junior Chris Brown, and Miami senior captain Will Weber each received major penalties for fighting and game disqualifications.

One minute left. Berenson was not amused — but it wasn’t the officiating that drew his ire after Saturday’s win.

“It was the way the game was being handled,” said Berenson. “We talk about [this with] our team, the puck management and management of your emotions and so on, but it’s really too bad that happens.

“A smart coach knows … how important his players are [and that] they have to stay in the game, and when a team has a nonconference weekend the next weekend, they might take liberties and maybe they did, but we’re the ones that are going to pay for it.”

That’s Berenson absolutely not talking about the officiating.

See, the Wolverines play a series against Michigan State this weekend, with league points on the line. Michigan will be without Brown for the first game of that set, Friday’s contest in East Lansing.

The RedHawks are hosting Alabama-Huntsville in Oxford, Ohio. Miami will be without Weber for Friday’s contest of that series.

The kicker, though, is that what began the entire mess with a minute to go in the game was the love tap that Michigan’s Alex Guptill gave Miami goaltender Connor Knapp, after the whistle had blown. Michigan’s Jon Merrill shot from the right circle and Knapp made the save. The whistle blew. Guptill — Michigan’s leading scorer — tapped Knapp with his stick.

That was something that Weber deemed inappropriate, understandably. Weber shoved Guptill back away from Knapp and two other RedHawks players, Garrett Kennedy and Patrick Tiesling, joined in, backing Guptill toward the boards, where it was three on one.

Brown immediately skated in, no doubt in an attempt to even up the fight. And fight it was.

This isn’t about the officiating. All four men in stripes were on this fast and had they not been, things would have been much uglier. Both Knapp and Lee Moffie tried to get into the tangle, but referee Keith Sergott pushed them back and out of harm’s way. While there was a lot of tussling, the real action was between Weber and Brown, whose helmets and gloves were off. After Weber wrestled Brown to the ice, Merrill tried to help but was pulled away so quickly by Sergott that he wasn’t able to get himself into any trouble at all.

Referee Brian Hill did an excellent job of breaking up the fight between Weber and Brown before either could really get hurt.

Now, I’m no psychic — as my picks record this season can evidence — but I’m pretty sure the look on Miami coach Enrico Blasi’s face indicated his displeasure with his own squad, especially since Blasi was publicly irritated with his own players after Friday night’s loss, a game in which the Wolverines scored two power-play goals.

Blasi had reason to be annoyed earlier in the game, when it appeared that Matt Tomassoni scored on a short-handed breakaway, a goal that would have made it a 2-1 contest. There were 15 seconds left on a Michigan power play. Tomassoni picked up a loose puck that was stalled by a broken stick near the Miami blue line, flew down the ice and beat Hunwick fair and square, right through the senior’s legs at 9:35 in the third.

But Moffie was there to make what may have been the save of the night — maybe. Moffie scooped the puck out and back into play, and Hill signaled no goal.

When the play finally stopped again — when Knapp made a save on Derek DeBlois at 11:16 — the Tomassoni shot was reviewed.

And re-reviewed. After the first ruling of no goal was announced, Blasi argued his case rather passionately, fueled by the replay on the giant screen above the ice. The officials went back and looked at it again. Again it was ruled no goal.

On camera, Blasi could be seen saying one word: “Wow.”

After all of this — after all of this drama, and innuendo, and controversy and everything that makes a high-level college hockey game exactly what we love on a Saturday night — Hunwick and Moffie made it even better with what they said after the series was over.

Asked whether he was tempted to skate the length of the ice and join the scuffle near the end of the game — perhaps challenging his counterpart, Knapp — Hunwick said he was never tempted.

“Do you know how big he is?” said Hunwick. “Maybe if it was Palmisano — Palmy’s my good buddy, so I’m just kidding.”

Knapp is 6-foot-6. Hunwick is 5-7. Michigan State goaltender Drew Palmisano is 5-10.

“There’s no chance,” said Hunwick. “It was four on three so I knew what [Knapp] was doing. He’s getting in there to even things up. You see it all the time in hockey. Even if he was making it five on four, he’s pretty big. I don’t know if I would have trekked down there.”

Another reporter asked if the players thought the game was dirty. Both answered immediately — and sincerely — in the negative.

“I don’t think so,” said Hunwick. “It was emotional, like a playoff atmosphere.”

“Both teams wanted to win so bad,” said Moffie.

“I don’t think it was dirty at all,” finished Hunwick.

Hunwick also put into perspective what a good home crowd can do to a visiting team. “Once the crowd gets going a little bit crazy you start losing your mind a little bit,” he said. “Going down to Miami when the crowd’s all over us, it’s not easy to keep your head.”

And even though he didn’t have the last word of the night, chronologically, since his players came out after he was finished, Berenson had the best line of the weekend. Of course.

“There’s no fighting in college hockey,” said Berenson, “let’s face it. You want to have a fight, go out into the parking lot after the game.”

That’s Red Berenson being Red Berenson.

They play hockey, too

There was some talk about the Wolverines’ second-half performance. I made sure of that.

It seems to me that Michigan’s overall team defense has improved significantly in these last 13 games, but Berenson said he thinks the whole team is playing better since December.

“We’ve been playing one or two freshmen every night on defense and with Jonny Merrill in the lineup, he just upgrades our defense a lot,” said Berenson. “I think our team just has more confidence right now and we have some momentum and we’re getting good goalkeeping.”

Good goalkeeping is an understatement. I do not know how Hunwick does what he does, but in these past eight weeks, he’s doing it exceptionally well. His save percentage has increased to .932 — fifth-best in the nation and the best so far of his career — and his goals-against average is 2.05 (ninth).

The Michigan team defense is fifth nationally. That’s no accident, said Moffie. “It’s kind of weird. It’s something that Red always says. When you’re focusing more on D and when you’re going out there and working as hard as you possibly can, the bounces kind of go your way.

“That’s how we’re playing. Every game we’re coming in and saying [that] we’re going to outwork this team and bounces will go our way. That’s what’s been going on.”

Players of the week

There is nothing surprising about this week’s selections — well, except that the best forward in the league was a defenseman, and you’ll get no argument here about that.

Rookie of the week: Bowling Green’s Ryan Carpenter, who put on a one-man, third-period show against Notre Dame Saturday, scoring the tying and winning goals in the 3-2 game. He had an assist in Friday’s 2-1 BG loss, too.

Offensive player of the week: Michigan State senior captain (and defenseman) Torey Krug, who had two goals and three assists in MSU’s road sweep of Ohio State, including the winner Saturday.

Defenseman of the week: Michigan junior Lee Moffie, who had two goals in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Miami, including the short-handed, game-winning goal. Moffie also had an assist in Friday’s game.

Goaltender of the week: Michigan senior Shawn Hunwick, who allowed one goal in the Wolverines’ two-game sweep of Miami, with a weekend save percentage of .981.

My ballot

1. Minnesota
2. Minnesota-Duluth
3. Boston College
4. Boston University
5. Michigan
6. Merrimack
7. Massachusetts-Lowell
8. Ferris State
9. Maine
10. Colorado College
11. Notre Dame
12. Union
13. Cornell
14. Western Michigan
15. Denver
16. Miami
17. Michigan State
18. North Dakota
19. Northern Michigan
20. Lake Superior

USCHO covers the CCHA all week long on the CCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.

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  • nmu dad

    I think you have mixed up the NMU and WMU.  They are just the opposite in the pair wise.  Maybe the remain schedule favors NMU a bit. 

    • dusty bronco

      the pairwise is killing WMU, 2nd in the league, 19th in the PWR. They need to quit splitting with the bottom of the league. 

      • Fox5 2

        Wow,do some of you guys like too bash Michigan.Maybe its because all they do is win and win.The officials were god awful this past weekend and yes Miami was trying and trying too start ****,because they got dominated.Maybe some your favorite programs will be up too MICHIGAN standards,until that happens respect the MAIZE and BLUE.And stop whinning.GO BLUE BABY.

  • Al

    The players comments are really a better insight into this game, Berenson just comes off as a passive-aggressive dick.

    • Streaker

      Really? I see a coach that is trying to protect his all star goaltender. I see a coach that is correct about the obtuse execution by CCHA officials. I see a coach that skillfully crafts his words so he gets his point across without sounding too offensive. It’s not JUST this series.It’s been weekend after weekend of having his goaltender bowled over and other scrum type stuff that isn’t remedied with decisive and assertive officiating. 

      Am I biased? Heck yes. But it doesn’t take a physics major to see that there is a distinct relationship between allowing overaggressive after the whistle nonsense to go on weekend after weekend and the resulting emotional boilover that is going to occur. Funny thing is, it is the SAME official that is allowing it. ND/WMU. ND/Michigan. Miami/Michigan. 

      If any group of people are “passive-aggressive” it is the guys in stripes that can’t seem to control the games until it is too late. One example of what officials did correctly doesn’t wipe out a whole weekend’s worth of indecision and inconsistency. 

      But, in fairness, I’ll be the first one to say that there is no way those group of players should have been out there in the last minute saturday night. Berenson regrets that with his comments, chastising his own players in that they fell into the trap set for them. Paula crafts a solid neutral view of this- stating that in the end it was Guptill’s tap that gave Miami an out to mix it up. Michigan will have to deal with those consequences and Berenson is quick to say that, too.

      He also threw a bouquet to Blasi in suggesting that he did try to control his players after Friday and that he sat out (Coleman) Saturday for his blatant charge with seconds left on Hunwick. The contempt Berenson has is for league officials more than anyone. I don’t see where that is any different than comments made this season by Jackson, Blasi, Anastos etc.     

    • Paula Weston

      I disagree.  Coupled with his comments following Friday’s contest — indicating that he’s been attempting to draw attention to what he thinks is a problem for far longer than this weekend — his comments following Saturday’s game seemed pretty restrained to me and the result of long-simmering frustration.

      And watch your language.

  • Guest

    Sergott needs to step down. His officiating is a joke, and it’s starting to get dangerous. He was responsible for ejecting the wrong guy with ND/WMU several weeks ago, the series with Michigan a week later, this, and as a Michigan fan, I will never forget that atrocity with Corey Tropp. He isn’t fit to call a Bowling Green/Alaska game, much less a major rivalry game with conference and tournament bid implications.

    Weber was taking runs at guys all night because he knew that if he didn’t get away with it, it wouldn’t be any worse than evening the penalties up. You take that, the fact the crowd was letting him have it all night for an early nasty crosscheck that was evened up, and Brown’s move on him to score the third goal, and it’s little wonder that he went right after Brown when he came to help even up three guys ganging up on Guptill. That’s the product of unchecked emotion and feeling like you can get away with it. I highly doubt that was instigated exclusively by a tap to Knapp’s pads after what they’d been doing to Hunwick all weekend; that was merely the excuse needed to take out a weekend’s worth of futility on somebody.

    • Paula Weston

      I never said it wasn’t an emotionally charged game.  I was discussing specifically what happened in the end.

      And your implication that a game between Bowling Green and Alaska is somehow less worthy of quality officiating — by anyone — is offensive.

      • Guest

        I don’t know why that would be offensive. An extra level of intensity is inherent in rivalry games like this, and an official has to be prepared to deal with that.

        Last I checked, Bowling Green and Alaska are not major rivals, and unless something unusual takes place during the game, they aren’t exactly a huge brawl risk. Nothing against Alaska or Bowling Green, I picked them as an example of schools that are, as far as I know, as far from rivals as you can get and still be in the same conference. When you put together schools like Miami and Michigan, it’s practically certain if you don’t keep things under control from start to finish. Sergott has continually shown an inability to that, and the fact he’s been assigned to such series at any point is ridiculous.

        Furthermore, I’m asserting he’s a bad enough official that he couldn’t even handle a less intense series, and that follows in no small part from the number of completely blown calls. A good way to get a game emotionally escalated is to kick the wrong player out for a perfectly legal hit, something he did just a few weeks ago. His co-pilot for the night, Hill, also had a hand in the UMD/Yale game in the tournament last year in which the same thing occurred and Yale was screwed out of any opportunity of a comeback. None of that even begins to mention their inability to consistently get standard calls correct. I love it when icing is called when the puck bounces off a guys skate and clearly changes direction at the blue line going in.

        I really hope the Big Ten doesn’t give into the temptation to just hire all the CCHA officials. I’m not trying to imply being an official is easy, but at some point if you can’t handle it, you can’t handle it. Of course, he’ll probably be put right back out there next week for Michigan/Michigan State, and we’ll get to see the boil over Saturday night if the lead is more than 1 come the end of the game.

  • Davyd83

    Poor little Hunwick. You mean the guy that just up and punched a guy in the face with his blocker against NMU and threw his stick nearly hitting a linesman? As you sow, so shall you reap

    • Streaker

      Hunwick was rightfully tossed and apologized for his display, which occurred of course, after a NMU player skated behind him, bumping him in the process, in his crease.  I don’t recall any other opponent players getting tossed this season for running him over, taking shots to his head etc. It’s happened multiple times. He allegedly suffered a mild concussion, too from these actions as well as taking a puck to the facemask. NMU, LSSU, Miami and ND have all used these tactics. It’s time to either let the players mete out the justice or have the coach complain enough to the league to have them start to enforce it. Their choice. 

      Michigan isn’t exempt from physical play and goaltender interference. There is a distinct difference though, when it is used as a tactic to disrupt a netminder purposely. That line has been crossed too much this season by our opponents and the league has stood by and let it happen. 

      • Brice

        That player was Cherniwchan and he said he was trying to get away from the fight already in progress as fast as he could. There wasn’t anything malicious about it and Hunwick was a good 4 yards from the crease. Its a completely different situation than what happened here, but people will jump at a chance to defend Hunwick without seeing the play. 

  • Guest

    Michigan is notorious for hitting the other team’s goalie. A taste of their own medicine and it’s whine city.

    And you missed talking about Guptill’s spear.

    • Paula Weston

      The kicker, though, is that what began the entire mess with a minute to go in the game was the love tap that Michigan’s Alex Guptill gave Miami goaltender Connor Knapp, after the whistle had blown. Michigan’s Jon Merrill shot from the right circle and Knapp made the save. The whistle blew. Guptill — Michigan’s leading scorer — tapped Knapp with his stick.”

      • Guest

        That wasn’t a spear. When the Miami players went after him he “defended” himself with a spear to the mid-section of a Miami player.

        • Davyd83

          OH…OK it’s not spearing if you are defending yourself…point that one out in the rule book…I think it’s under “When it’s OK to spear.”

          • burgie12

            I think you misunderstood his statement.  He’s saying that Guptill also speared a Miami player, in addition to the “love tap” to Knapp that Paula referenced.

            He wasn’t saying that the act of putting his stick in the mid-section of a Miami player wasn’t spearing, it was that the act that Paula documented wasn’t a spear.

  • bluetell

    That’s really sad that Guptill tapped Knapp. Poor Knapp. Well Sergott let Notre Dame bulldoze Hunwick over and over again two weekends ago and then we come back home and again, Sergott lets Miami run over Hunwick again and again before finally dealing out a 5 minute major…with 1 second left on Friday.

    Miami was frustrated because they got owned. Michigan was frustrated because the games were out of hand. Sergott & co. are terrible refs

  • KAW

    I was afraid that this was going to turn into a story about how poor victim Michigan overcame those mean, physical players trying to hit their superb all-star amazing players, and they overcame the adversity of piss-poor officiating to win despite all odds.

    I am glad to see that it didn’t. Sorry, Red, but whether you’re an elite team or star netminder, you’re subject to the same protections as everyone else. Nothing more, nothing less. Kudos to Hunwick for handling the press well, too, and not trying to instigate or insinuate anything with his comments. His coach could learn a little something about maturity from him.

    • Streaker

      Is that why there were chairs flying in the visitors locker room last friday night? Is this why a certain coach’s head was going to burst by badgering officials not once but twice regarding a certain video review? Please, don’t talk about Berenson’s maturity with the display Blasi gave a national tv audience. 

      BTW- here is more fuel: NMU: 4th highest penalized team in the country. Miami: 6th highest penalized team in the country. Michigan: 25th. You can talk about Hunwick and Brown and Guptill’s lack of self control all you want, but stats don’t lie. Individually, they need to develop more poise… and let Berenson   take on the CCHA, even if haters spin it into some irrational rant. 

      • Davyd83

        How about Hunwick’s blocker punch last year against MSU. Poor guy apologized. Should have been DQ’d and suspended. Throwing a stick, kicking a helmet…please. Should have gotten a lengthy suspension for missing the linesman by just a couple inches when he threw the goalie stick.

        • Streaker

          Um, that was against WMU in the CCHA semi’s. If you are going to flyspeck issues, get it correct. There are always two sides to every situation, apparently that logic departs from certain Northern fans blinded by their hatred. You are trying to justify teams running Hunwick by pointing out his misbehavior. I am not excusing those. Man up and admit that your team and others have taken runs and are being allowed to do it by an incompetent set of officials.

          • Davyd83

            Funny, I just watched the video. Unless Dustin Gazely played for Western and the Broncos were wearing Green and White, I’m pretty sure it was State…

        • Anonymous

          You mean the player Hunwick punched because the player was picking a fight with him? The puck was on it’s way the other direction and he decided he wanted to get into it with Hunwick, so Hunwick took care of him.

          Plus, I’m pretty sure a punch to a facemask, aided by the fact the dude skated right into it, is a pretty weak in Michigan State’s book. What Hunwick should have done was knock him in the throat with his stick blade. Just ask Corey Tropp.

  • Jason Mohr

    Does anyone have any rational explanation about reviewing the no-goal a SECOND time?

    I have yet to hear any acceptable reason for it.  Is there some sort of coach’s challenge that I am not aware of?

  • Aaron Bartkowiak

    The officiating in the CCHA has been getting worse for years now.  I go to a game and don’t know what a penalty is or isn’t anymore.  This weekend at NMU the officials were having trouble calling icing.  I’m also tired of every hit being called contact to the head or boarding.  Apparently the CCHA is trying to make hockey a non-contact sport.  I’m hoping the CCHA officials aren’t recruited to any of the new or realigned conferences.

  • PureBlue

    One missing note on the UM v MU series was the recurring chant from the student section reminding the inconsistent referees that they had lost control of the game.

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