SAUER SHOWS BIG-GAME HEROICS

This season, Michigan coach Red Berenson has often called goalie Billy Sauer a “rock.”

And nowhere was the junior’s transition from unpredictability to reliability more evident than during the Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 28-29.

Sauer recorded two shutouts to seal Michigan’s first GLI championship in 11 years.

His performance added to his career-best shutout streak of 166 minutes and 7 seconds, which started in the second period of the Wolverines’ Dec. 7 win against Bowling Green.

After making a total of 87 saves on the weekend, Sauer won tournament MVP honors and was responsible for keeping Michigan in the game during a 1-0, double-overtime championship win over Michigan Tech.

Following his team’s first win in the tournament, a six-goal drubbing of Providence, Sauer said his 50-save performance came in “one of the easier nights” he has had to play.

But the next night’s 82-minute thriller showed Sauer was truly rock-solid under pressure – and would stay that way all the way to the Frozen Four.

– Courtney Ratkowiak

SENIOR SHINES AFTER UGLY INJURY

Chad Kolarik is one of the most dangerous players on any roster in the nation. On any given night, the senior can scorch the nets for three of four goals that make opposing defenses look silly.

But no one expected that kind of production from Kolarik in the first round of the CCHA Playoffs.

The Abington, Pa. native was sidelined with a nasty hamstring injury for the 26 days leading up to the best-of-three series with Nebraska-Omaha. There were questions about Kolarik’s ability to skate smoothly, let alone carry the team.

With one swift wrister halfway through the first period, Kolarik proved the injury was a thing of the past. He skated hard towards the net, pulled up short and dumped the puck in for Michigan’s second goal of the night.

And the alternate captain wasn’t done yet, notching two more goals against an overmatched Maverick defense.

When Kolarik completed his final hat trick in Yost Ice Arena, a few unique souvenirs found their way onto the ice – like the water buffalo hat and the penguin suit, costumes worn with pride at every Wolverine home game this year.

– Andy Reid

PORTER’S FINAL CASE FOR THE HOBEY

Going into the NCAA East Regional on a three-game pointless streak, people were starting to talk. Michigan senior captain Kevin Porter was slumping at the worst possible time. His apparent lock on the Hobey Baker Award was in danger of being broken.

The questions came quickly after Porter was held off the scoresheet in the CCHA semifinals and finals. Is he gripping his stick too tight? Can he handle the pressure? Why can’t he handle the big stage?

Well, it didn’t take long for Porter to silence the doubters. Against Niagara in the East Regional semifinals, he scored three goals over a 22 minute-span. The Northville native added an empty-net goal late in the game for a regional-record four tallies.

In just one night, Porter answered all the questions. And in all likelihood, he solidified his Hobey grasp, all while ensuring Michigan of its first Tournament win since 2004.

– Nate Sandals

COLD YEAR WARMS WITH MVP HONORS

It’s been a difficult year for junior Tim Miller.

The forward had his alternate captain ‘A’ taken away halfway through the season and didn’t find the back of the net for 364 consecutive days. Rather than building on his solid sophomore season, Miller put up numbers resembling those from his first year in Ann Arbor.

But when Michigan played at Joe Louis Arena this year in the CCHA playoffs and against Michigan State, Miller’s stat line looked completely different. Each of the junior’s four season goals was scored at the Joe. He also assisted the eventual conference-championship winner against Miami (OH) on a beautiful pass off a low-zone faceoff.

All year, Miller and his struggles took the backseat to the Wolverines’ unexpected success, but at the Joe, the junior’s behind-the-scenes impact came to the forefront.

And his last game there, Miller was voted the Most Valuable Player of the CCHA playoffs.

– Michael Eisenstein

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