Hockey: Sauer Pitches Birthday Shutout

On Friday, the No. 7-ranked University of Michigan hockey team dropped the puck on the second half of the 2005-06 season with a 4-0 win over the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Goalie Billy Sauer blanked UAF for his first career college shutout on the freshman's 18th birthday.

As the Wolverines began the second half of the season, they found themselves in a relatively unfamiliar position; trying to play catch up. After being swept by Miami of Ohio in early December, the Wolverines now find themselves in weekend of must win games against Alaska-Fairbanks to try and keep pace with the RedHawks.

Aware of the situation at hand, it didn't take the home Wolverines long to light the red light and climb on top of the Nanooks. A goal from Danny Fardig at 4:01 of the first period put Michigan on top 1-0 and the Maize and Blue. It was all that Michigan would need.

On his 18th birthday, it was Michigan goalie Billy Sauer that stole the show. After emerging as the Wolverines starter in net, Sauer recorded his first Michigan shutout holding UAF scoreless on 26 shots.

"It looks good to see no goals against," said Michigan coach Red Berenson after the game. "I think he (Billy) deserved that. He had a lot of good shots right from the start of the game on. He looked good. He was very solid and he gave us a great game right from early on."

Michigan would threaten to increase the lead with four minutes left in the period on an Andrew Cogliano breakaway, but the Wolverines center was slowed down by two Nanooks defenders and couldn't get off the shot before UAF goalie Wylie Rogers pounced on the puck.

In the second period, the Wolverines continually increased the pressure on the road team. Jason Bailey's fifth goal of the season put Michigan on top 2-0 after riffling a shot over the glove of Rogers from inside the right circle. Around the middle point of the second stanza, the Wolverines would press UAF again. However, this time they were unable to capitalize as Tim Miller's shot sailed wide of the open net after a beautiful cross-ice pass from Andrew Ebbett caught the Nanooks goaltender out of position.

Michigan would score one minute later. Chad Kolarik put Michigan on top 3-0 by flipping the puck over Rogers shoulder from just outside of the crease after the goalie was unable to control the rebound off of a David Rohlfs shot. Michigan led 3-0 after two.

Alaska-Fairbanks would attempt to mount a comeback in the third, but anything the Nanooks tried, Sauer was ready for. On the penalty kill, Sauer's strong play in the net shut down UAF as they hammered away on the door step trying to cut into the lead.

"I just woke up this morning and thought it was going to be a good game. I guess it turned out to be. Our team played a lot of defense. I didn't really have to make any big saves," said Sauer after the game.

Matt Hunwick would add one more goal for the Wolverines by tucking the puck past Rogers on an odd man rush with Kevin Porter. Carrying the puck in along the left hand side, Porter found Hunwick crashing hard on the right hand post. After taking the pass, a quick fake at the wrist shot created an opening for the defenseman to crossover to the backhand for the easy goal.

Michigan outshot the Nanooks 31-26 in the contest.

Now, the Wolverines prepare for the tail end of the weekend series, a game in which the Wolverines may have to battle through fatigue and injury if they want to claim a sweep on the weekend. Back from the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championships, Jack Johnson, Kevin Porter, and Mark Mitera will be playing in their fourth game in just as many days and Andrew Cogliano in his third. However, the boost they provide the Wolverines is still evident.

"You can just feel tonight, having those guys back in the locker room, it makes us a much better team," said Berenson. "When Mitera and Johnson walks in on defense, all the sudden our defense looks like a much better division one defense then it did last week." And it isn't just the defense.

"Porter steps in and gives you another strong forward. And you saw the impact that Cogliano had, and those guys traveled all night. Porter, Johnson and Mitera traveled all night. All of them got on a 1 a.m. flight in Seattle and got in at 9:30 this morning. Cogliano didn't get back until 4:30 this afternoon."

Michigan and Alaska-Fairbanks conclude the second game of the weekend series on Saturday night inside Yost Ice Arena at 7:35.

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