FAIRBANKS – It’s said that you should pay attention to the writing on the wall.
But for Michigan goalie Billy Sauer, it’s all about the writing on the glove.
The sophomore netminder inscribed a few key phrases on his glove at the beginning of the season that act as constant reminders when he’s on the ice.
“Watch the puck.”
“It’s just kind of something I live by,” Sauer said. “I think most goalies, that’s the first thing they get away from if things aren’t going well. I’m trying to keep it simple, so that’s been the biggest change.”
It took awhile, but the improvement has been evident. He’s allowed two or fewer goals in the past five games after posting a 4.75 goals against average in the final eight games of 2006.
This weekend, Sauer continued that trend as he allowed just two goals in each game of a weekend sweep that carried special meaning for the Walworth, N.Y., native.
By sweeping Alaska on the larger, Olympic-sized ice at the Carlson Center, Sauer exacted revenge two-fold.
He defeated the team that last season, dealt him his first career loss. And he handled the angles on the spacious rink like a grizzled veteran.
“It was kind of a personal thing for me,” Sauer said. “So to really come out here and have a good weekend was a good confidence booster.”
Last year, Sauer traveled into the Carlson Center in late October as the freshman goalie for the top-ranked Wolverines, playing on the bigger surface for the first time. The Nanooks put four goals behind Sauer. Michigan coach Red Berenson chose to play Noah Ruden in net the next night after Sauer’s poor performance.
This year was different, and Alaska coach Tavis MacMillan noted a dramatic change in Sauer’s play.
“This was as solid as I’ve seen Billy Sauer,” MacMillan said after Friday night’s game, where Sauer stopped 29-of-31 shots. “He looked like a much more mature goaltender tonight. He’s handling his rebounds, taking the angle on the first shot. I thought he was much sharper.”
Overall, Sauer blocked 61-of-65 shots he faced this weekend. Of the few pucks that found their way into the Michigan net, it’s tough to blame Sauer for any of them.
“To win back-to-back games and play solid in goal, only give up two goals (a game), in a tough building, this was a good statement for Billy Sauer,” Berenson said.
Before this weekend, Sauer’s last game on Olympic-sized sheet was an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of No. 1 Minnesota (Nov. 25).
Unlike that game, where Sauer had just one practice on the larger rink before the puck dropped, the Wolverines traveled to Alaska on Wednesday morning, giving him three practices at the Carlson Center before Friday’s game. Both Sauer and Berenson pointed to the extra ice time as the primary difference between the Minnesota game and the Alaska series.
Following Saturday’s win, the buzzword outside the Michigan locker room was confidence.
“Obviously, when you put together games like this, your confidence is going to grow,” Sauer said.
But the key for Sauer is still controlling what’s in his head and focusing on the fundamentals written on his glove.