Chad Kolarik has already spoiled a potential Billy Sauer shutout.

So last night, when he committed a penalty with just under two minutes to play and Michigan leading 5-0, the junior forward had good reason to fear the worst.

“Against Quinnipiac (last year), he had a shutout going and a puck banked off me and went in,” Kolarik recalled last night. “When I took the penalty, I thought for sure I was going to ruin it for him.”

Fortunately for Kolarik and Sauer, Bowling Green failed to score in the final two minutes.

It was Sauer’s first shutout since Jan. 6 of last year – his 18th birthday. Last night, three days after turning 19, Sauer expressed more relief than joy.

“I didn’t really think it was going to happen, to be honest with you,” Sauer said. “It was good to just to get it off my back.”

The sophomore was justified in doubting the outcome after a shutout slipped away on a Michigan Tech goal with just 1:16 to go in a Dec. 29 game at the Great Lakes Invitational.

While Bowling Green’s offense is nothing to write home about, Sauer still put forth a solid effort to keep the puck out of the net.

In the first period, boredom was Sauer’s biggest enemy. The Falcons managed just one shot, and that came late in the frame.

“I was just looking up at the clock wondering when is this (first) period going to end,” Sauer joked. “It’s hard to keep yourself in the game.”

That was evident as the Walworth, N.Y., native struggled mightily in November and December. Now he must prove last night’s effort wasn’t an anomaly.

The biggest positive for Sauer is that the shutout is more than just notching a win.

“It’s an earned shutout,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It’s not a shutout that he got by default. That was a positive step for him.”

Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here: For the first time in more than a month, everyone on the Michigan roster was healthy for last night’s game.

The Wolverines suffered from an injury bug in December when defensemen Jack Johnson, Jason Dest and Steve Kampfer all suffered shoulder injuries.

While Dest and Kampfer were back for the GLI just before New Year’s, Johnson and forward Andrew Cogliano were absent for a different reason: The IIHF World Junior Championships in Sweden.

Berenson is glad to have all his players back for the second half of the season, but not just because he has all his talent back. He believes the players’ return will rejuvenate the group’s locker room and on-ice chemistry, too

“The team is like a family,” Berenson said. “When someone’s missing, they’re missing, but it’s good to have them back.”

Big jump: Johnson came back from Sweden angry and for reasons other than the United States failing to win gold. He was also mad with Michigan’s spot in the CCHA standings.

The Wolverines entered last night’s game in sixth place.

After the team’s 5-0 win, Michigan didn’t just move out of the middle of the pack, it leapt.

The Maize and Blue vaulted over Ohio State, Michigan State and Lake Superior State to move into third in the conference with 18 points.

Michigan has played the same number of games as the Lakers, and one and two fewer games than the Spartans and Buckeyes, respectively.

Going into last night’s game, Johnson called sixth place “unacceptable” for Michigan. It’s fair to say that third feels a bit more comfortable for the Wolverines.

If Michigan can remain one of the top-four teams in the conference, it will seal a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs, which begin March 2.

A weekend off would benefit the Wolverines, who play each weekend for the rest of the season and play just one game at Yost Ice Arena in February.

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