January 20, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Shifting Fortunes: Michigan's Goaltending Shuffle

Sauer, Hogan Continue To Battle Things Out

by Nicole Auerbach/CHN Reporter

Michigan senior goaltender Billy Sauer doesn’t like the bench. After two years of being a full-time starter, it makes sense.

But after seemingly overcoming question marks to guide the Wolverines to the Frozen Four last April, he self-destructed in the semifinal game against Notre Dame, giving up three goals on nine shots in the opening frame to crush hopes of a national championship.

His punishment? Essentially an open tryout.

For the first 16 games of the season, Sauer and sophomore goalie Bryan Hogan alternated starts. Many thought this kind of goalie competition and perhaps a Hogan takeover would have happened last year, when Hogan came in as a freshman. But a bout of mononucleosis kept him sidelined early in the season, and Sauer emerged as the go-to goalie.

But this year, the healthy Hogan posted a 7-1 record, which included a huge win over then-No. 1 Minnesota in the College Hockey Showcase on Nov. 28. Through the same stretch, Sauer’s record fell to 2-6 — a reflection not only of how few games he played but also a lack of offense in front of the netminder.

In his two victories, Sauer received a total of eight goals of support. In his losses, Michigan scored just four goals in six games.

Both goalies had similar save percentages and almost equivalent goals-against statistics, but the glaring record differential was enough — Hogan got the starting job.

“I know if we’re not winning when I’m in net, I know it’s tough for coach to put me in, even if he does think I’m playing well,” Sauer said at the time. “There’s only so much I can control. ... If I could score goals or something, that’d be great.”

Since early December, the undrafted Hogan started six games — all wins, including a key sweep of Miami.

Michigan outscored opponents 30-6 in that span, and during the games, Hogan made some tough saves look easy, his coach said.

“That’s when you’re playing well as a goalie,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said after the second win over Miami.

But this past weekend was a different story.

On Friday, Hogan let in three goals on 14 shots against CCHA bottom-dweller Bowling Green, earning his first loss since Nov. 22. The next night, Sauer got the start.

The senior admitted that riding the bench since Thanksgiving weekend was “terrible,” but he couldn’t complain too much since the team had found so much success. And he certainly was excited to get back out on the ice during a contest.

“I felt very into the game,” Sauer said. “I felt nervous but an excited nervous. I hadn't played in two months so it was tough getting out there, but I ended up feeling pretty comfortable.”

Sauer made 19 saves en route to a 1-0 shutout victory, his first win since Oct. 31. A lone goal by sophomore defenseman Chad Langlais proved to be the difference in the game, and Sauer’s solid goalkeeping held it up.

“Bryan Hogan has done a great job,” Berenson said after Sauer’s win. “I would tell you that he’s still our No. 1 goalie. But I think it was a time where you needed to put the other goalie in and challenge your team and challenge him.

“Billy has looked good in practice. He’s worked hard. He’s not played poorly — he just hasn't been able to win. Finally, the team scored a goal for him.”

So whether Berenson’s comments re-open the goalie competition from the start of the season or simply mean Sauer will get an occasional start, they mean the coaching staff hasn’t lost complete faith in the senior — and neither has his team.

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