SAULT STE. MARIE – After all the criticism goalie Billy Sauer took last season for his inconsistency, the junior has come back to be one of the most consistent players on this year’s edition of the Michigan hockey team.
Once again, Sauer deflected nearly everything that came his way in two games against Lake Superior this weekend, including a season-high 34 saves Saturday.
Of the 61 shots the Lakers fired at Sauer, the Walworth, N.Y., native stopped 58 of them (95 percent), even with the 18 penalties enforced against Michigan during regulation.
“It starts with your goalie, obviously,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said of Sauer’s ability to kill so many penalties. “Billy was sharp, and he had to be sharp.”
Sauer played hesitantly early on, allowing goals in the first period of both contests – the Lakers scored once Friday and twice Saturday. But Sauer didn’t allow a single goal in the second or third periods of either contest.
With the Wolverines playing from behind early in both games, it was crucial for Sauer to keep the the puck in front of him to keep Michigan in the game.
“It could’ve been 5-5 if he wasn’t in the net today,” senior captain Kevin Porter said after Friday’s contest. “He played unbelievable today, especially in the first and early in the second. He held us in there, and we got that goal and got the momentum. He gives us confidence, and that’s when we start to pick it up, when we see him make great saves.”
Extracurricular activity: In the waning seconds of Saturday night’s contest, junior Travis Turnbull burned past the defense and took a hard slapshot towards the Lake Superior goalie.
A normal hockey play.
Except for the fact that the last second had long since ticked off the clock in Michigan’s 6-2 win Saturday night. The final buzzer had clearly sounded well before Turnbull cocked the shot at goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson.
“He made a poor decision,” Berenson said. “You know, the buzzer went, and I thought he had time to hold back on his shot, and then he took a shot at the goalie. It’s seemingly harmless, but you don’t do that. The buzzer went. The game’s over. Don’t do that. That’s a poor decision on his part.”
Laker defenseman Steve Oleksy especially took offense to the late shot and shoved Turnbull hard into the boards.
Several bare fists connected with unmasked faces before the refs, who seemed to initially not notice the fight, skated over to break it up.
The Lake Superior faithful booed Turnbull all the way back to the Michigan bench, where he was escorted by the head ref following the altercation.
When all was said and done, Turnbull received two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, four minutes for roughing after the whistle and a 10-minute misconduct. Olesky drew four minutes for roughing after the whistle.
Since Turnbull’s penalty was not a game misconduct, he will not be suspended from next weekend’s College Hockey Showcase.
Added Motivation: The Laker players and fans alike were obviously excited to host a No. 1 ranked team this weekend.
When the Wolverines traveled to Taffy Abel Arena, Lake Superior was ready for them. Michigan looked completely unsettled by the Lakers’ overtly aggressive style of play in the first period of Friday’s contest. Lake Superior scored the lone goal of that period before losing 5-1.
According to Berenson, his team’s top spot in the USA Today poll could have been a major contributor to the Lakers’ dominant first-period performance.
“You have to give Lake State credit,” Berenson said. “They hear all this talk about Michigan coming into their rink No. 1 or No. 2. We know that’s not realistic, but just to say that is good motivation for Lake State. I mean, their coach told me that was their best game in three weeks. They were ready to play, and they got the jump on us with that first goal.”