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Matt Slovin: Making history

Adam Glanzman/Daily
Former Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick isn't coming back, so hockey fans shouldn't hold their breath in anticipation of a savior. Buy this photo

By Matt Slovin, Managing Editor
Published January 13, 2013

This is what history sounds like.

Techno music blaring from the visitors’ locker room. A hearty chuckle from Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson — nearly two decades worth of stress alleviated with a game that wasn’t even close.

This has become a historical season for the Michigan hockey team, and not the good kind.

On Saturday night Michigan made dubious history again. Alaska, winless since Nov. 16 entering the weekend, swept the Wolverines for the first time in an all-time series that isn't at all close. Entering the weekend, Michigan led 42-10-1.

Ferguson knew that the Nanooks were making history, but forgive him if he’s still adjusting to taking six points in one weekend. This season, six points in a month was closer to the norm.

“To be honest with you, it’s the first sweep we’ve had in a long time as a program,” Ferguson said. “Michigan — I’ve always had so much respect for their program and for their coaching staff. For our team to come in on the road and get six points, it’s real big for us.”

If Alaska was trying to play the role of the underdog this weekend, it didn’t do a very good job.

Red Berenson is adjusting too; it’s the sweepers who have become the sweepees.

“In years past, we would lose a game but we’d bounce back the next night,” Berenson said. “I can’t remember being swept like we are this year. Look in the records, I don’t think that’s happened in a long time.”

Michigan has now been swept twice this year, both at home. It’s only the second time the team has been swept twice in a season in the last 15 years. And it’s the first time it has been swept twice at home in the same season since 1986-87 — Berenson’s third season in Ann Arbor.

And there will almost certainly be more history to be made. The 22-year NCAA Tournament streak is no longer in jeopardy — it’s on life support.

For this team to make the NCAA Tournament, it’s going to have to win the CCHA playoffs, which is about as likely as Shawn Hunwick coming back for a sixth year.

For clarity’s sake, and so Michigan fans don’t get their hopes up about Hunwick, that means not at all likely.

And if it seems like this team can’t buy a win at home, wait until it packs its bags. Not since the 1972-73 season has Michigan gone this long into a season without a road win. The eight games the Wolverines have lost at Yost Ice Arena this season already are the most since 1988-89.

Take a glance at the upcoming schedule, and show me where the wins will come from. I simply can’t find them. It’s ludicrous to consider that this team will go winless the rest of the way — it won’t — but the Wolverines did just get spanked by arguably two of the easiest teams in the CCHA in Bowling Green and Alaska.

So what’s left to play for? Well pride, for one.

If the season came to a merciful end today, the Wolverines would travel to Michigan State for a best-of-three playoff series. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Home-ice advantage is supposed to be a boost — it’s even right there in the name. But if I’m in the Michigan locker room, I’m not sure how much weight that carries with me right now. When the tournament streak comes to its seemingly inevitable end in the league playoffs, I wouldn’t want to be left skating off the rink where the 22-year run was built.

Yost was Alaska’s last frontier. John Zarling, a former professor at Alaska and Fairbanks resident, flew down to Chicago then drove to Ann Arbor. It was the third time he has made the trip. But this one felt a little different.

To him, the arena has lost its vicious bite. He described the atmosphere as less hostile than on either of his two other trips to Ann Arbor. But that didn’t make the history-making sweep of the Wolverines any less sweet to the Michigan Tech graduate.

“I’m pumped right now,” said Zarling, smiling from ear to ear.

This is what history looks like.

Slovin can be reached at mjslovin@umich.edu or on Twitter @MattSlovin.