ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- All season long, David Wohlberg has worked on quickening his release.
Earlier in his career, he spent too much time with the puck. He’d corral it, settle and then shoot. That left too much time for something else to happen, something that would take away from his chances to score goals. So he had to tinker.
The center with the faster twitch scored two goals Saturday night, helping No. 2 Michigan to a 3-1 win over No. 7 Notre Dame and a sweep the best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal series.
It was something he focused on all year long. If he was quicker with the shot, the opposing goalie would have less time to react. So in Wohlberg’s final game at home inside Yost Ice Arena, with Michigan needing a win to advance to the CCHA semifinals for the 24th straight season, that quick trigger worked.
“It wasn’t something I was trying to majorly change,” Wohlberg said. “But it was something in the back of my mind and it ended up working tonight.
“Throughout the season it’s come up multiple times, when you try to pull in the puck and it gets deflected, so why not shoot as quickly as you can.”
That fast release led to Michigan’s first goal, when Michigan freshman left wing Phil Di Giuseppe stood inside the left circle in Notre Dame’s part of the ice, saw an open Wohlberg and fired a pass to him.
It also led to Michigan's third goal -- Wohlberg's second Saturday -- which was set up by Alex Gupitill and Lee Moffie.
Wohlberg didn’t think. He just shot and it beat Notre Dame goalie Steven Summerhays high and to the left to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead -- critical after the teams played a double overtime game Friday night.
“I just shot it as hard as I could,” Wohlberg said. “I didn’t even know where the goalie was.”
That first goal did a lot of things.
It put Notre Dame in an interesting position -- now needing to make a comeback to extend its season. It gave Michigan confidence at the end of the first period.
For whatever reason, Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick said, his team plays better when the Wolverines score first. Michigan is 3-5 when scored on first and 20-6 when it scores first.
Michigan scoring first also relaxes Hunwick. The redshirt senior made 25 saves Saturday, including one on a point-blank breakaway early in the first period and three quick ones during a Notre Dame power play in the third period.
He plays better with a lead, which showed again Saturday.
It had been another strong performance from Hunwick, playing his final game as a Michigan starter at Yost after traveling the well-told story from walk-on to replacement starter to full-time starter and now to one of the best goalies in college hockey.
So as he left the ice for the last time -- as one of the final Michigan players to head back to the locker room, Hunwick looked around, joked he hoped for a sixth year he can’t have and then realized that was it.
“It’s sad,” Hunwick said. “I thought I was going to play one game hopefully on senior night when I came here. I can’t be too upset with the career I’ve had here.”
It is a career that isn’t quite over yet. Next for him is the place where he cemented his past two seasons as Michigan’s starter -- the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena.