Goalie switch fails to provide Wolverines with comeback spark

BY NICOLE AUERBACH
Daily Sports Writer
Published October 26, 2008

BOSTON — The Boston University student section picked up on it first.

Said Alsalah / Daily

Before the puck dropped to start the third period of Saturday’s game, the “Dog Pound” changed the focus of its harassing chants from senior goaltender Billy Sauer to sophomore Bryan Hogan.

After allowing four goals in the first two frames, Michigan coach Red Berenson pulled Sauer.

“I just wanted to try to get a life back in our team,” Berenson said. “I can’t tell you it changed much. You’re looking for ways to change the game, change the momentum in the game. You can’t pull the whole team.”

After Hogan came in, it appeared as if Michigan responded positively to the spark.

Just more than a minute into the third period, freshman forward Robbie Czarnik fired a shot from the right circle over Terrier goaltender Kieran Millan's left shoulder for his first career goal. That made it 4-1, the closest the Wolverines would get.

Then, the goalie experiment failed.

Hogan couldn’t quite get a feel for the game after being thrust into a hostile crowd of 6,400 screaming fans. He didn't look as confident as he did in his three starts this year.

He gave up three goals on just nine shots in the third period Saturday night.

Berenson has alternated starts between the two goalies this season. He started Hogan last Thursday against Niagara because he felt the more-experienced Sauer could handle the pressure of a road game better.

But Sauer didn’t look comfortable in net, especially after giving up his first goal. BU forward Kevin Gilroy tipped the puck into the net after it bounced off Sauer’s chest with five minutes remaining in the opening period to open the scoring.

“The first goal obviously was a big goal,” Berenson said. “It wasn’t a great scoring chance, but it was a bad rebound.”

Sauer ranked fifth in the nation last year with a 1.95 goals against average. So far this season, he’s given up three, one and four goals in his starts. Scores have often come off easy rebounds or sloppy scrambles around the net.

Although the first goal of Saturday’s game wasn’t pretty, the others came off what Berenson called “tic-tac-toe plays.” BU relied on a combination of speed, quick passing and strong stickwork in front of the net to score, especially on the power play.

“I can’t fault our goalies,” Berenson said. “Our goalie would have had to absolutely stand on his head to make a difference on some of those shots. Our defensemen’s sticks were not where they had to be.”

More than half of Michigan’s 13 penalties were called on blueliners. The already-thin unit struggled to keep up with the Terriers’ relentless offensive attack, which focused on cycling the puck down low around the net. They had 32 shots on goal.

Berenson’s second-intermission switch was reminiscent of last year’s Frozen Four goalie swap, in which Hogan came into the game after the first period against Notre Dame. Sauer had let up three goals on nine shots in the semifinal game. Berenson said then, as he did Saturday, that the pull was about trying to change momentum and spark the team.

But for the Wolverines this weekend, the goalie change didn’t provide positive results. And with the question marks surrounding Sauer’s big-game abilities already present, the swap could affect the senior’s confidence and rhythm in weeks to come.