Michigan Returns to the Top
Sauer Rallies From Friday Letdown to Steal the Show Against Miami
by Andy Reid/CHN Reporter
DETROIT Before he got to hoist the Mason Cup over his head to celebrate Michigan's first CCHA Tournament championship since 2005, Billy Sauer watched on as his counterpart, Miami's Jeff Zatkoff, received All-Tournament Goalie honors.
But it was Sauer, not Zatkoff, that turned in the game-winning performance in the finals to help his team to victory.
"It's a good feeling just because you win," Sauer said. "Just because I didn't get named to the All-Tournament Team doesn't really mean much. I didn't play that well (Friday against Northern Michigan) so I don't think I deserved it a whole lot.
"When we get our rings in the summer, I won't be feeling too bad about it. That's the most important part of it, just that we went out there and got the win."
Against the RedHawks, who boast the nation's most potent offense (4.3 goals per game), Sauer played one of his best games of the season by holding Ryan Jones and the rest of the Miami forwards scoreless.
Only defenseman Alec Martinez tallied a goal for the RedHawks, a last-minute desperation goal with a two-man advantage.
"Tonight, right off the bat, I had a feeling it was going to be a good night," Sauer said. "I was feeling it really well."
Miami's offensive attack was in top form during the second period, but Sauer denied all 13 shots it sent to the Michigan net. The Wolverines were severely outplayed in the second frame, and as a result, the majority of the play was in the Michigan zone.
The RedHawks worked the puck smoothly, waiting for perfect opportunities to pounce on Sauer, but the junior denied them a clear look at the net.
Even in the transition game, where he struggled in Friday night's semifinal against Northern Michigan, Sauer took good angles on the Miami onslaught to keep the game within reach.
The award was given to Zatkoff over Sauer largely because the Wolverine goalie's semifinal game against Northern Michigan, where he let three of the Wildcats' first six shots past him.
"The thing I liked about Billy Sauer was in (Friday) night's game, he didn't have a lot of shots at him and it had to be frustrating," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "But they were good scoring chances and pretty good goals ... And as the game wore on last night, we're hanging on the last five minutes and he fought hard to keep that win. He was the difference in the game last night, and he carried that on for tonight's game."
Although Sauer had a less-than-stellar showing through most of the game, he stepped it up in the final minutes when the Wildcats pulled their goalie, denying several scoring chances to preserve Michigan's tournament hopes.
"(Friday) was one of the toughest games I've played all year, Sauer said. "I didn't see many shots, and the ones I got ... I couldn't come up with. So to have a game like tonight where I could rebound and I was getting some consistent work really helped, and I was glad I got the work tonight."
And Sauer brought the momentum of those last few minutes into the finals. Berenson, who talked to the crowd after the game, was quick to praise his goalie. Immediately after Zatkoff accepted his award, Berenson acknowledged that without his goalie's play, Michigan might not have come away with a championship.
"He made it look easy tonight," Berenson said. "When goalies are playing well, they make it look easy, and when they're not, they look like they're desperate or they're overreacting to the shots. Billy was smooth tonight."