Lawrence Kasdan would have been hard-pressed to create a more interesting cast of characters.
Present at the Big House Saturday afternoon were representatives from the Guinness Book of World records, a legendary hockey coach who once skated for the Montreal Canadiens and two tradition-rich hockey teams.
They were all in attendance, along with a supporting cast of 113,411, to witness an outdoor hockey celebration known as the "Big Chill at the Big House."
Stealing the show, of course, was the tiny Michigan goaltender who led the Wolverines to a 5-0 shutout over the Michigan State Spartans.
Hunwick, who turned aside 34 shots, was to be Saturday’s understudy, if it wasn’t for a groin injury to Bryan Hogan during the pre-game warm-up.
Hunwick’s super-sub role actually began late last season when Hogan was also injured. All he did was come off the bench and win seven games in a row, enabling Michigan to surprisingly land a berth in the NCAA tournament.
As expected, Saturday’s attendance set a worldwide record for a hockey game. The previous mark of 77,803 was set in Germany last summer at the IIHF world championships. In the first of these modern-era outdoor hockey games, Michigan and Michigan State played to a 3-3 tie before 74,544 at Spartan Stadium in the 2001 “Cold War.”
Saturday's game set two additional attendance records. The event broke the old stadium mark while also besting the NCAA event record. Both were set at this season's Michigan football opener in September.
The name “Big Chill” was of course influenced by the 1983 film classic written by Kasdan (Michigan ‘70) and Barbara Benedek, who both braved the chilly temperatures to be on hand.
In hockey circles, Michigan coach Red Berenson could be anyone’s leading man. Just this season, Berenson won his 700th game as the Wolverine’s mentor. He also played for Michigan in the '60s, before starring in the National Hockey League.
Michigan (10-5-4, 9-3-1) gave Hunwick plenty of support, scoring four power goals and taking advantage of a size and speed advantage. Other than having a goal disallowed when the net was dislodged, Michigan State (6-9-3, 3-8-1) was totally frustrated by Hunwick’s steady play.
John Merrill and Carl Hagelin each scored twice for Michigan, who along with Michigan State, play next in the Great Lakes Invitational later this month in Detroit.
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