Spotlight On: Billy Sauer
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
With a career goals-against average over 3.00 and a save percentage under .900, Billy Sauer came in to his junior season with questions swirling around the goal crease he came to Ann Arbor, Mich., to defend.
Would Sauer improve? Could Sauer hold his own as a Wolverines goaltender following the lineage of Steve Shields, Marty Turco, Josh Blackburn and Al Montoya?
Well, consider those questions answered: Yes, and Yes.
Sauer enters this week's NCAA Frozen Four with a 30-4-3 record on the year, with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. After backstopping the Wolverines to a solid first half, the coming out party for this Walworth, N.Y. native may have been the weekend of Dec. 28-29 at the Great Lakes Invitational at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.
Sauer turned aside 50 shots in a closer-than-it-looked 6-0 win over Providence and led Michigan to the GLI championship the next night, stopping all of Michigan Tech's 37 shots on goal in a 1-0 double overtime victory.
Since then, Sauer has only lost two games. In six postseason games this year, the junior goaltender has allowed one goal or less in five of them.
"It's definitely been a learning curve for me," Sauer told CHN after leading the Wolverines through the NCAA East Regional last weekend. "I came in here pretty young as a 17-year old, and it was an offensive-minded team, and I struggled at time. I wasn't as mentally tough as I think I am now. I couldn't play every night. I had my glimpses, but at the same time, I showed nights where I struggles. So it's been a learning thing for me.
"I feel like I'm playing the best hockey I've ever played."
One key to Sauer's success has been a key addition to the Michigan coaching staff — the aforementioned Josh Blackburn, who won 92 career games between the pipes for Michigan, 4th most in NCAA history.
Blackburn was added to serve as a goaltender coach for Sauer, as well as backup netminders Bryan Hogan and Shawn Hunwick.
"We're very fortunate that Josh is in the area and was able to come out and help us" said associate head coach Mel Pearson. "We haven't really had an individual being here in the past to help with our goaltenders.
"Josh Blackburn, other than Porter, Kolarik, and Sauer, might be the MVP of our team this year. Just being able to talk to someone has been huge for Billy Sauer, and I think Billy would echo our comments on that."