Billy Sauer’s job as Michigan’s starting goalie just got a bit more secure.
The sophomore was guaranteed the top spot by Michigan coach Red Berenson before the season, and now he will have his personal goalie coach as a member of the Michigan coaching staff, too.
Yona Fioravanti was hired as Michigan’s volunteer goalie coach last week and will begin instructing the Wolverines’ three goalies Monday.
“The coaches talked to me about (a new goalie coach),” Sauer said. “I recommended him, and they brought him and they really liked him.”
Fioravanti, who professes a lifelong obsession with goalkeeping, has worked with Sauer for nine years.
Sauer is certain that having Fioravanti close by this season will improve his performance.
“I spent the whole summer with him,” Sauer said. “Having him here all the time is just going to be huge, knowing I have somebody I can rely on with me.”
Fioravanti, a Rochester, N.Y.-area native had been looking to coach at higher levels, but expressed surprise at the speed of his ascent.
“I was hoping to move up,” Fioravanti said. “I didn’t expect it to happen this fast.”
Berenson and his staff brought Fioravanti in for an interview in late September. The coaches were impressed with his intensity and passion for goalkeeping.
“He’s really into working with goalies and totally excited about the opportunity to come in and help,” Berenson said.
The 43-year old Fioravanti spent the past three years as a goalie coach at the Maksymum Hockey School in Rochester, N.Y., where he tutored Sauer, a native of nearby Walworth, N.Y. Prior to that, Fioravanti had worked under Finnish goalie guru Jukka Ropponen at the Puckstoppers Goalie School in London, Ont. Fioravanti credits Ropponen with getting him into coaching.
Though he never played college hockey, Fioravanti was a member of the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans. In a two-year, self-described “miracle stint,” Fioravanti saw action in fewer than 10 games.
Fioravanti stresses the fundamentals of goaltending. He would rather a goalie excel at moving with the puck than making spectacular saves from out of position.
“My stuff is a little bit different than what most other people teach,” Fioravanti said. “I want (the goalie) to be square to the puck at all times, and I expect them to be square to the puck on their feet.”
While Michigan’s other two goalies, senior Mike Mayhew and freshman Steve Jakiel, have never met Fioravanti, both Sauer and the coaching staff expect his arrival to improve the unit as a whole.
Fioravanti is a coach who is very interested in feedback from his players, a style that helps foster a good working relationship, Sauer said.
Fioravanti replaces Stan Matwijiw who spent seven seasons coaching Michigan’s goalies.
While the remainder of the team has the day off, the three Wolverine goaltenders will be at Yost Tuesday afternoon for their first session with the new coach. As usual Fioravanti plans to start with the fundamentals: watching the puck come off the stick.
For the time being, Fioravanti will commute from his home in Rochester, N.Y., to work for Michigan. He hopes to be in Ann Arbor at least twice a month, a level comparable to the presence of previous goalie coaches.
While the new position will include a lot of travel, Fioravanti is excited to be a part of a storied program like Michigan.
“I thank the University and coach Berenson for the opportunity,” he said.