Last Season: After a strong first season with the Lincoln Stars when he posted a 22-12-4 record with a 2.50 GAA and a .916 save percentage and played well enough that the Stars traded Jakiel, Hogan struggled somewhat last year.
His record was still very good (27-13-3) but his GAA (3.04) and save percentage (.889) probably weren't what he was hoping for. Still, he comes in with the experience that Billy Sauer didn't get, due to Al Montoya leaving school to turn pro. Hogan took a team to the state championship in Michigan, and has 81 USHL decisions under his belt. He should be much more prepared to come in and play.
Expectations: All offseason, Red Berenson talked about how this team needs to be better in goal, and that heading into the Fall, the starting goaltender position was up for grabs. Like a lot of Michigan fans out there, I was hopeful that Hogan would come into camp, play like the guy that put up great numbers two years ago, and solidify our situation in net.
And then came disaster.
Mono. When I heard the news, it was a lucky break that there were no sharp objects within reach. The string of profanities that came out of my mouth at that moment was perhaps only matched by Ralphie's father in A Christmas Story.
What does that do to Hogan's chances of playing this season? It's hard to say. Bare minimum, I have to believe that he's out until late October or early November. After he's cleared to get back on the ice, how long will it take him to regain his stamina? I had mono my senior year in high school and it knocked me out for pretty much the whole summer. These guys are in much better shape than I was. I don't know if that has an effect on the recovery period.
But that doesn't even take into consideration the fact that Hogan is missing all sorts of practice time right now; time where he could be impressing the coaches and stating his case for the starting job. Will it be tougher to earn playing time mid-season? I guess it depends on Sauer's play.
When Mike Cammalleri came down with the disease a few years back, he missed 10 games (and he skated for a good three weeks before he was ready to play again). I imagine the period of time off is longer for a goalie due to the nature of the position. If your spleen is enlarged, it's probably not the best idea for people to shoot pucks at you.
Had he been healthy, I've got every confidence that Hogan would've been starting a game this weekend in St. Paul. If he didn't earn the job outright, he would be splitting time, as Berenson has hinted that that method might help Sauer as well. As it is, I wouldn't expect to see him until after the College Hockey Showcase. He might be ready to get back on the ice in early November, but unless Sauer is absolutely tanking, I doubt they throw him right into the fire.
After that, it's anyone's guess, because Hogan's playing time also will depend heavily on Sauer's performance. The coaches were willing to open it up to competition, but with Hogan's illness, that went out the window. Now Sauer will get the chance to earn the job while Hogan recuperates. If he can play well consistently, we probably won't see a ton of Hogan. If he continues to struggle, I imagine they'll start by splitting time, and then the better goalie will take over for the stretch run.
Level of Necessity: 10 out of 10.
There's no recruit more important to this team. We need a goalie. The defense was partially at fault for the debacle of last season, but we can't go on like that. The inconsistent play in net pretty much undermined the highest scoring team in the country and led to another first round exit.
I think we're going to score goals this season. Likely not as many as last year, but that's ok, as long as we get some quality play out of our netminder. When you score 5 goals in the first 21 minutes of a hockey game, you shouldn't only have a one goal lead. You certainly shouldn't find yourself trailing twenty-five minutes into the game.
The talk coming from the team is that they're going to try and make a strong commitment to playing team defense this year. If that is actually put into practice, we need our goaltender to step up and make some saves. I don't care if it's Billy Sauer, Bryan Hogan, or Shawn Hunwick, but someone needs to do it.
And I've got the most confidence is Hogan. Which scares me because I've never seen him play.
Here's how he described his own play in "Checking In":
» On his strengths and style as a goalie ... "I really like the battle. I like loose pucks and rebounds. Another thing I do is come out further from the goal to cut down on angles. A lot of people are surprised that I come out really far, but it just gives me a little bit of extra advantage. Then also I love to play the puck. I like a hybrid style where you use butterfly and you also use half-splits and a combination of other things. I like to be athletic and then be technically sound. It’s something I hope shooters can’t find a pattern to."
Whatever works for him. Practice reports before his illness have indicated that he really isn't kidding when he says he comes far out of the net to cut down the angle.
2 more to go. Look for Billy Sauer's preview before I go to bed tonight and Max Pacioretty's in the morning before I head out for St. Paul.