Senior goaltender Billy Sauer finally got the goal support he needed to win Saturday.
But for a netminder whose team had just 11 goals of support from his offense in nine games this season, it’s better than usual. Michigan didn’t score in three of those nine games.
Sauer hadn’t won a game since No. 8 Michigan’s series against Ohio State Oct. 31, but Sauer shut out the Falcons 1-0 Saturday to salvage a split against Bowling Green.
In a series that was clearly dominated by goaltending, both
Sauer and the Falcon’s Jimmy Spratt proved to be the difference makers. The Bowling Green netminder held the Wolverines (10-6-0 CCHA, 16-8-0 overall) to just one goal on the weekend off 68 total shots. Spratt earned the 3-0 shutout win Friday night at Yost Ice Arena.
Sauer has just a 3-6 record, so getting the win in hostile territory was an improvement this season.
“I haven’t (won) in a while, so it felt great,” Sauer said. “Especially in a game that close, to know that you were the difference, it feels good.”
Sauer last played in the team’s 3-0 loss to Wisconsin Nov. 28. Michigan coach Red Berenson named sophomore Bryan Hogan the starter after that game, and Hogan rewarded his coach with a 6-0 record before losing to the Falcons Friday.
Though Sauer faced just 19 shots and didn’t make the jaw-dropping saves that Spratt made on the other end, Sauer’s workman-like performance was enough to keep Bowling Green off the scoreboard.
And when Bowling Green (5-10-1-0, 8-13-3) had a power play in the final minutes, Sauer made the stops to secure the win. In the waning seconds of the game, Sauer stopped a shot right off the faceoff, displaying his awareness for the situation and helped him earn his first shutout of the season.
“I felt very into the game,” Sauer said. “I felt nervous, but an excited nervous. I didn’t ever feel like I was out of the game just because I wasn’t seeing a lot of shots. I hadn’t played in two months so it was tough getting out there, but I ended up feeling pretty comfortable.”
While Hogan showed some flaws Friday, Berenson says that Hogan is still his top man.
“Bryan Hogan has done a great job,” Berenson said. “I would tell you that he’s still our No. 1 goalie. But I think it was a time where you needed to put the other goalie in and challenge your team and challenge him.
“Billy has looked good in practice. He’s worked hard. He’s not played poorly, he just hasn’t been able to win. Finally, the team scored a goal for him.”
The Wolverines weren’t at their best for either game, partly due to the phenomenal play by Spratt.
Michigan also missed some key opportunities. Sophomore Louie Caporusso missed on a rebound chance with Spratt out of position Saturday, and Tim Miller had a goal taken off the scoreboard by the referees Saturday.
In Hogan’s shutout loss Friday, the team looked out of rhythm and failed to generate opportunities against Spratt.
“We just couldn’t get the puck in the net and … it is about mental preparation,” sophomore forward Carl Hagelin said. “If we were ready to go, we would have popped a couple (goals) in during the first period. This was the worst first period we have had all season.”
The series was similar to Michigan’s series against Western Michigan earlier this season. After losing to a team much further down in the CCHA standings. Michigan had to come back on Saturday to salvage a split. The Wolverines particularly struggled on the power play and went 0-for-13 in a weekend where 46 total penalties were assessed.
But this weekend’s difference was that instead of Sauer coming up on the short end of the stick, he received enough goal support to get the win.