Just five days ago, goaltender Shawn Hunwick was upset over the disappointment of an overtime loss to Cornell in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA tournament. But today he’s sitting on the bench of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Luck might have helped play a part in Hunwick earning an NHL contract, but no matter what the reason, it is certainly gaining national attention.
Hunwick’s big chance came thanks to an injury to starting goaltender Steve Mason. Mason had his bell rung by a Colton Gillies shot to the mask in practice on Wednesday morning, leaving him out of the lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Detroit Red Wings. The Blue Jackets knew they would have to turn to back-up goalie Allan York to make the start, but the team still needed another goaltender and decided to sign Hunwick to an amateur tryout contract.
Hunwick – the brother of Matt Hunwick of the Colorado Avalanche – is a 5-foot-7, 24-year-old who is proving that goalies don’t have to be big to be successful in the net. He was a walk-on third goalie at the University of Michigan during the 2007-08 season and was then red-shirted the very next season. It wasn’t until Michigan’s senior night against Notre Dame in 2010 that Hunwick earned his first college win, after starting goaltender Bryan Hogan went down with a groin injury. He then led the Wolverines to a CCHA tournament win last year and was named MVP of the event.
The following season, Hunwick once again reaped the benefits of the ailing Hogan, not only participating in the Big Chill against Michigan State but leading the Wolverines to the NCAA championship final, where Michigan came up just short, losing in overtime. In 40 games this season, Hunwick put up a 2.00 goals-against average and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, which is given to the season’s top NCAA men’s ice hockey player.
“He's had to fight for everything he's gotten and had to overcome a lot of things,” Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson told Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch. “We had to get somebody in tonight. He was available, but we would consider signing him for rest of year, too.”
It might be an amateur contract for a back-up spot on the worst team in the league, but there is no denying that Hunwick’s tale is that which movies are made. He has been lucky in getting playing time throughout his up-and-down career, so who knows, we might just see him in net before his contract – and the NHL season – comes to an end.
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