The focus of the Yost faithful in Friday’s 6-1 win over Western Michigan probably should have been on the four-point output from the defensemen or freshman Kevin Quick’s first career goal.
Maybe the highlight could have been the top line’s seven-point performance, or goalie Billy Sauer’s shutout streak passing 200 minutes before it was snapped early in the third period.
But with new Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez in attendance, the other objects of attention didn’t have a chance. All eyes were on Rodriguez, who shunned his luxury-box seats for a place in the student section. The crowd aimed several cheers at him, including, “Beat the Buckeyes” and “We want Pryor,” referring to star recruit Terrelle Pryor from Jeanette, Pa.
“I wanted to sit in the student section,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to be where all the action is. If you want to get a true experience, I was told, then you had to be right where the students were at.”
For his first hockey game at Michigan, Rodriguez wore a personalized maize sweater with the number 23 and dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff.
During the first intermission, he also played Score-O, a game where contestants try to score a goal from the blue line with just a small rectangular area left unguarded at net’s bottom. Rodriguez hit the left post on his second shot, but missed wide right on his other two attempts.
“I’ve got to practice,” Rodriguez said. “That was embarrassing.”
Rodriguez also attended Tuesday’s men’s basketball game against Indiana and left the hockey game early for the women’s gymnastics. The coach will be away from campus on recruiting trips the next few weeks.
‘Shutout’ Sauer: After tallying just one shutout last season, Sauer has pulled a complete 180 – and then some.
No, not the “complete turnaround” type of 180 – he’s already done that. Just look at last month when, the junior won CCHA Player of the Month with his .983 December save percentage.
Sauer went a full 180 minutes without giving up a goal, eventually extending that streak to 206:14 Friday night against Western Michigan.
The Walworth, N.Y., native continued his run of surrendering fewer than two goals in a game. He’s allowed more than one goal just once in his last 13 games. Sauer’s lone mistake of the night ended his shutout streak seven seconds into the third period, crushing his previous career high, set earlier this season.
While the team may have been playing sloppy, leading by several goals, Sauer stymied any potential Western Michigan comebacks in the third period.
“In the third period, he had to play the sharpest,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “They could’ve scored three or four goals in the third.”
Although Sauer’s markedly improved play has been evident throughout the season, he’s shown even more improvement over the last few games. The junior is handling the puck more around the net and facing opponents further out of the crease to limit the shooters’ angles. Twice Friday, Sauer challenged attackers as far out as the middle of the circles – both times eliciting “Billy Sauer” chants for the bold efforts.
“I like the fact that he was aggressive,” Berenson said. “You either go or stay, and if he would’ve stayed, they would have had a breakaway.”
Notes: Freshman first-liner Max Pacioretty sat out Saturday after leaving Friday’s game early with an injury. He’s not expected to be out long-term and the left-winger could be back in time for next weekend’s series against Notre Dame. . After not allowing a goal in 22 consecutive shorthanded situations, the penalty-kill unit finally let one through Saturday.