Sauer – the fifth-winningest coach in college history
– writes a bi-weekly column for Inside College Hockey.com.
"The Dean" was the head coach for 31 years at Colorado
College and Wisconsin, where he won two national titles. Sauer
retired at the end of the 2001-02 season.
listening pleasure, find The
Bud Song on Wisconsin's official site.
of the fun in doing this column is the opportunity to interact
with you, the hockey fan. Please send your questions or comments
would you recommend for a young hockey player to use for a
Troy Howard, Minneapolis
of the all wood sticks passed by a long time ago. The new
fiber and metal shafts have changed the hockey stick. As a
coach I would suggest that a young player start with a stick
that has good feel. Hockey is similar to what has happened
in baseball – the metal bat has helped with
costs, but has also changed the game because the ball travels
farther. In hockey the new composite sticks may give the younger
player more speed on a shot, but the feel for the puck is
not the same as with a wood stick. In saying this, a player
may have to search far and wide to find the type of stick
I'm talking about, that he or she feels comfortable with.
The game is still about finesse and feel if you are to be
a good stickhandler.
13, 2003 The
Dean's List by Jeff Sauer
It's the most
wonderful time of the year if you are a fan, player or coach in
is a basketball term. But playoff time is the period that hockey
fans live for.
As a coach, your focus has always been to play your best hockey
at the end of the season, when trophies are on line. You prepare
for this time of the year.
I know it's
a cliché, but for teams that didn't have a good regular season,
it is a second season, a time for redemption. And for teams that
have done well during the regular season, it's a time to prove they
are for real.
As a coach and
player, there is pressure at this time of year. Teams like Ferris
State, Cornell and Colorado College this year know that they are
going on the NCAA Tournament, but they want to keep playing well
and get as high a seed as they can.
For teams that
didn't do so well in the regular season, the pressure is much more
real. They know they have to win now to keep their season alive
for another weekend.
Home ice is
a major advantage during the playoffs, both from the advantage of
sleeping in your own bed and playing in front of home fans to the
bigger edge of having the last line change.
seed allows the coach the last change so he can match lines or make
sure he has the defensemen he wants out against the opponent's top
line. This year this may be a little different, though, with the
new 15-second faceoff rule. A coach is going to have be very prepared
to make sure he can anticipate and get the right people on the ice
at the right time.
It is a time
when a coach tends to shorten his bench and play his best players.
I saw this first-hand recently while coaching the U.S. team in the
Deaflympics. We played a Russian team that had two five-man units
that were better than anyone else. They kept playing the same four
defensemen and two lines and won the tournament.
may think you don't shorten your bench until late in a tournament,
but it depends on the circumstances. If you have to win the game
to go on, you have to coach to win that day. You can't worry about
the next day.
In a best-of-three
series, obviously the first game is the key. You win that first
game, you put a lot of pressure on the other team –
because it's tough to win two games in a row. A win in the first
game of a series really affects the psyche of the opponent's coach
Just as obviously,
goaltending is a key. You can ride a hot goalie a long way in the
playoffs. If a goalie is playing well, oftentimes players play more
relaxed. For a coach who rotates his goalies during the season,
making the decision on who to start is a big one. And make no mistake:
often it comes down to a gut decision by the coach. You know who's
playing well. You know how players perform in big games. You know
how the team reacts in front of different goalies. You make your
choice and live with it.
what your team's situation is in the playoffs, this is the time
to pull out all stops. You watch more video to determine an opponent's
tendencies. You reinforce that you get your top defensemen out against
their top forwards or get the line matches you feel best about.
During the regular
season, you might try to play six defenseman and roll four lines
or try different line combinations. By this time of year the experimenting
is usually over. You want your best players out there as much as
critical. You need to keep out of the penalty box because power
plays take on added significance in the playoffs. And often you
tire your best players out killing penalties. You want them fresh
if you need a big goal.
is that referees pull back on the reins at this time of year. The
veteran officials want players to determine the outcome, and to
me, that's a good thing.
vital at this time of year. You know what to expect if you have
been through it before. That way you don't get rattled. People don't
realize it, but players and coaches aren't the only ones who benefit
from experience. It's the support people, too – the
ones who take care of the logistical things like travel and tickets
so that players and coaches can concentrate on what's important:
We always tried
to keep the same routine as during the year. Practices weren't different.
Our day-of-game routine stayed the same. You tried to keep players
from getting rattled and uncomfortable. You wanted them to avoid
hassles and concentrate what is most important during the playoffs
– winning games.
Enjoy the most
wonderful time of the hockey season.