DENVER – This was goalie Billy Sauer’s year.

Sauer had bounced back from two mediocre years between the pipes and his inconsistency had rarely reared its ugly head this season.

Ever since the CCHA playoffs, Sauer’s “comeback” story was the endless topic of discussion.

Last year, Sauer was often a scapegoat. This season, he was usually the star.

But last night, the junior didn’t even make it past the game’s opening period.

Michigan coach Red Berenson pulled the team’s season-long starter after he surrendered three goals on nine shots.

Freshman Bryan Hogan, who had not played in the postseason, replaced Sauer.

Berenson told his team during the first intermission Hogan would take over for the junior.

“He just came in and said ‘Get ready,’ ” Hogan said. “So I just got ready, and that’s about it.”

The decision was based mostly on Sauer’s struggles last year at the Pepsi Center. Sauer let seven pucks find the back of the net in Michigan’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to North Dakota.

“Had I not watched the (North Dakota) game I might not have pulled him,” Berenson said. “He’s been our bread-and-butter goalie all year, but I just didn’t like the way that he game was going.”

Two of the three goals Sauer let in Berenson thought the goalie “would have stopped any other night.”

Berenson also wanted to spark his team with the switch, which it did. The Wolverines climbed within one goal (3-2) by the end of the second period. At the end of the third, Michigan tied Notre Dame at four.

“It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, we had to change the momentum of the game,” Berenson said. “It was a tough decision, but you’re trying to win the game.”

Earlier in the evening, Berenson saw North Dakota’s star goalie Jean Philippe Lamoureux give up four first-period goals in a 6-1 loss, another thing on the coach’s mind when he made the decision to switch goaltenders.

Sauer came off the ice visibly dejected after the first period, but he was one of the most excited Wolverines on Michigan’s second goal and was jumping up and down from his spot behind the bench.

But while Sauer was riding the emotional rollercoaster from behind the boards, Hogan played very well between the pipes. The freshman, who played in just five games during the season, posted 18 saves in a game he probably never imagined he’d enter.

No one was talking about the tough goal he gave up to the Fighting Irish in overtime off a long pad-save rebound. It was his strong play that kept the contest from becoming a blowout.

“I think he did a great job,” goaltending coach Josh Blackburn said. “It’s a hard situation to be thrown in, and I think he responded very well to it.”

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