Preview: Great Lakes Invitational

Michigan Tech hosted a media conference call today to give the coaches and captains of each team a chance to talk about the 47th edition of the Great Lakes Invitational and the season so far. All four teams are at or above .500 so far this season and have been ranked at some point. Boston College (Bill Arnold) and Michigan (John Merrill) will be missing players who are participating in the World Juniors in Alberta over the next week. Wes Frahm took a moment to mention the autographed college & pro jersey combo giveaways from NCAA alumni who’ve gone on to skate in the NHL. Four lucky fans at this year’s GLI will go home with a pair of jerseys signed by Justin Abdelkader (Spartans/Red Wings), Doug Brown (Eagles/Red Wings), Chris Conner (Huskies/Red Wings) or Jack Johnson (Wolverines/Kings). The upgrade of Chris Conner's jersey from Griffins to Red Wings is sure to please the Michigan Tech alums in attendance. Good luck to those of you attending on winning these priceless jerseys.

Also, Michigan Tech will be setting up an interactive exhibition entitled ‘The Science of Hockey’ on the main concourse at Joe Louis Arena for fans to visit throughout the tournament. This innovative educational exhibition is designed to be enjoyed by hockey enthusiasts of all ages and features a variety of exhibits that incorporate scientific lessons with hockey-related paraphernalia and equipment. Presented by Michigan Tech’s Mind Trekkers Student Outreach Program, ‘The Science of Hockey’ will open at 2:00 p.m. on both December 29 and 30 and will remain open until the end of the first period of the early game. Admission to ‘The Science of Hockey’ is free with the purchase of any GLI ticket.

The head coach and a player from each team were part of the conference call. The players that took part included Captains Brett Olson (Michigan Tech), Torey Krug (Michigan State), Tommy Cross (Boston College) and Alternate Captain Shawn Hunwick (Michigan). Mel Pearson was first and took a moment to talk about the Huskies:[quote]I'm just thrilled to be here in Detroit. I've been associated with this tournament for 30 years now and I'm really looking forward to this year. It's obviously a very strong field. We're coming .500. I'm really happy with how our team has performed up to now. I think the reason we've had success this early in the year is really because of three of our seniors. Brett Olson, our captain, has had an outstanding season. Jordan Baker, senior assistant captain, did not play at all last year, has been healthy and very important to team, and then Josh Robinson in net has played extremely well and given us a chance in every game we've played. So we've relied on those three seniors heavily and really that's one of the main reasons we've had some success.[/quote]

Brett Olson followed that up with a comment about the tournament:[quote]We're very excited for the GLI this year. We know the history. Its been a long time for Michigan Tech for us to have actually won the tournament so that's been one of our main goals. We have a good group of guys that are ready to go and always excited to come down to Detroit, especially after the holidays, and play in this great tournament.[/quote]

Once the conference call was opened up for questions, Mel Pearson was asked about his long history with Michigan and the possibility of facing them on Friday. Pearson chuckled a little before his response:[quote]Well, hopefully we get that honor and privilege to play them in the championship game. We'd love to do that but I had a great run at Michigan. I really enjoyed my time there. Obviously, I've learned so much from Coach Berenson. It'd be a little weird being on the other bench, facing them but I know its going to happen sooner or later. I just hope we can both get in the championship game and hopefully one of us can win it.[/quote]

Michigan State head coach, Tom Anastos, was asked what makes Coach Pearson's team so tough to play against:[quote]Well, I think they've demonstrated already in the first half of the year how competitive they can be on any given night. They've been very consistent in their performance. They have really strong goaltending. They attack you very hard, so we have lots of respect for their team. Obviously all of us are coming off a break so it will be interesting to see how we all respond to that. There is a lot of enthusiasm around their program since Mel [Pearson] has taken over there. The [Huskies] seem to be playing with not only a lot of energy but a lot of confidence. When you play against that it makes for a very tough opponent.[/quote]

Coach Pearson was asked if he could talk about his memories of the GLI as a player:[quote]Obviously as a player at Michigan Tech it was a great experience for me and my teammates coming down to Detroit. Actually my first year, we were still at Olympia Arena so that's how old I am. We won it all four years when I was at Michigan Tech. Unfortunately, we haven't won it at Michigan Tech since 1980, my senior year. Obviously, that's our goal, to get back to that championship game and have a chance to win the tournament. It was such a great experience to come down to Detroit and play in an NHL building when you're in college.[/quote]

Red Berenson was asked about the depth of the teams at this year's GLI:[quote]I think anyone is capable of winning, and deservedly so. The job Mel [Pearson] has done up at [Michigan Tech] is no surprise to us. We expected them to be good and they are.[/quote]He continued:[quote]Our team might be the underdog of the four teams this year, even though if you look at the stats, we've won three of the last four GLIs. It doesn't seem like it this year.[/quote]

Brett Olson was asked what is the biggest difference from last year with all the success the Huskies have had in the first half:[quote]It's been a complete attitude change. We've had a little bit of success here at the beginning of the season with winning. Going along with that, you have to learn to win consistently. That's something we're learning to do now and the guys are getting used to it. Obviously, everybody likes winning, so we're trying to pick it up in the second half of the season. One of our main goals is to be a very strong team in the second half. We always look forward to coming down to the GLI because of the great teams that are always associated with this tournament. It's a great start to the second half of the season for any team.[/quote]

It should be a great tournament with one of the strongest fields in years. Hopefully the Huskies can start the second half with a couple big wins at Joe Louis Arena and bring home a GLI title for the first time since 1980. They will be helped with the return of Tommy Brown for likely one game, finally back from his early season surgery. Chad Pietila, Blake's brother, is also available for Michigan Tech after sitting out last spring and this fall as part of his transfer from Northern Michigan. Chad is likely to help soften the blow of losing Tanner Kero for a few weeks to an injury suffered at Marquette. Brown will hopefully return to his early season form and help tighten down the Huskies' defense. The Huskies begin their quest for a GLI title at 4:00 pm Eastern on Thursday, December 29. Tech Hockey Guide will be there to cover the event live and get quotes from the team after each game.

EDIT: Live Stats: collegehockeynews.com Michigan Tech Radio Broadcast: WKMJ 93.5 FM (Dirk Hembroff) Michigan Tech Audio Webcast: Pasty.net Live TV: Semfinal 2 Only on FSN Detroit FREE Video Webcasts: Semifinal 1 on MichiganTechHuskies.com; Third-Place Game on MichiganTechHuskies.com; Championship Game on FoxSportsDetroit.com