When you’ve played in front of 100,000 fans and in the National Hockey League, you don’t get too nervous for your first professional start.
South Carolina goalie Shawn Hunwick played like a seasoned veteran Saturday night, stopping 38 shots to lead the Stingrays past Ontario, 3-1, in front of 4,456 fans at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays are 2-1-0 and host the Reign again today at 3 p.m.
Hunwick, a rookie, played in front of more than 100,000 fans in The Big Chill, the University of Michigan’s annual outdoor hockey game against Michigan State, which is played in the Wolverines’ football stadium. Hunwick also played for three minutes last season for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.
So, his first pro start in the ECHL for the Stingrays wasn’t that big of a deal.
“I was excited to get my opportunity, but I wasn’t nervous about it,” Hunwick said. “I’ve got confidence in my ability and the guys in front of me. I’m not the kind of guy that gets nervous before a start.”
Hunwick didn’t exactly take a direct route to the ECHL or the Stingrays. He began the season in Europe and played well for Austria’s EC Salzburg during a preseason tournament. But when the club signed a goalie with NHL experience, Hunwick found himself out of a job.
The former Michigan star headed back to the United States and was all set to play for the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers. But a late call from the Providence Bruins found him in the American Hockey League. With the NHL lockout, the Bruins had too many goalies and sent Hunwick to the Stingrays.
“Growing up, I never dreamed I would play professionally, so I didn’t really care where I started my pro career,” Hunwick said. “I didn’t know much about the Stingrays, but I knew about the ECHL. It’s a good league and I’m not sure even without the lockout that I wouldn’t have ended up playing here.”
Hunwick, who won 46 games over his final two seasons at Michigan, showed off his quickness and lateral movement during the victory.
“The thing that was most impressive was Shawn’s ability to pick up the puck during some of those scrambles,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “There were a lot of legs and sticks in his way, but he found the puck all night.”
Carbery would have liked to have seen the Reign’s shot total a little lower, but Hunwick didn’t mind.
“I’d rather have a game like tonight than one with 15 or 20 shots,” Hunwick said. “The more shots I face, the more I get into the game.”
The Stingrays jumped to a quick 2-0 lead off of goals from Hunter Bishop and Andrew Cherniwchan in the first 10 minutes of the game.
“We got some momentum early, but after that I thought we made some sloppy plays,” Carbery said. “We turned the puck over and spent a lot of time in our defensive zone. Shawn really bailed us out all night.”
Everett Sheen’s goal early in the second period cut it to 2-1.
Stingrays captain Shawn Weller scored an empty goal with 40 seconds left to secure the victory.
Ontario 0 1 0 —1
Stingrays 2 0 0 —3
First Period: 1. SC, Bishop 1 (Cross), 3:24. 2. SC, Cherniwchan 2 (Weller, Cross), 7:37. Penalties: Kraemer, O (bench - too many men), 1:18; Hill, O (high-sticking, fighting - major), 13:26; Randell, SC (fighting - major), 13:26.
Second Period: 3, Ontario, Sheen 1 (Kraemer, DaSilva), 1:30. Penalties: LoVerde,O (tripping), 14:01; Sheen, O (slashing ), 15:02; Huxley, O (roughing), 16:05; Weller, SC (double - roughing), 16:05.
Third Period: 4. SC, Weller 1 (Cherniwchan, Cross), 19:20 (EN). Penalties: Yellow Horn, O (diving), 2:42; Koger, SC (slashing ), 2:42; Cross, SC (roughing), 6:53; Mara, O (tripping), 7:49; Kipp, SC (delay of game), 10:42; Bishop, SC (holding), 13:41; Stretch, O (slashing ), 14:55. Shots on Goal: Stingrays 12-12-7-31; Ontario: 11-7-11-39. Penalties: Stingrays 7-17; Kamazoo 9-21 Power Play: Stingrays 0 for 6; Ontario 0 for 4. Goalies: Stingrays – Shawn Hunwick (1-0-0) 39 shots, 38 saves. Ontario – Chris Carrozzi (1-1-0) 30 shots, 28 saves. A: 4,456.