Looking to defend their Great Lakes Invitational title from last season, the Michigan Tech Huskies found themselves in the championship game for the second straight year thanks to a shootout victory over Michigan State on the outdoor ice at Comerica Park in Detroit. Like last season, they again faced the Western Michigan Broncos. This time around, however, it was the Broncos who earned a shutout victory in overtime, 1-0, over the Huskies.
After an even first period that saw goalie Pheonix Copley continue his shutout streak in GLI play, the Huskies took the game’s first lead when junior Blake Hietala found senior Jacob Johnstone with a centering pass at 13:10 of the middle frame. Freshman Tyler Heinonen also assisted on the goal.
Trailing 2-1 in the third, sophomore Alex Petan took a centering pass from freshman Mike Neville and tied the game at 8:13. Sophomore C.J. Eick also assisted on the goal.
Overtime solved nothing, so a shootout was necessary to determine who would advance. After the first four shooters all missed before Villiam Haag gave the Spartans the lead. Assistant Captain Tanner Kero evened things for the Huskies. Three more shooters missed, giving senior Ryan Furne the chance to win the game for the Huskies, and he made the most of it to send the Huskies to the title game.
"It's huge," said head coach Mel Pearson. "Not just for our team, but also for our alumni and fans. We have a great fan base here in southeastern Michigan. I've been involved in the GLI for 33 years, and I've always noticed the fan support Michigan Tech gets."
Thirty saves should be enough most nights to win a hockey game. Unfortunately for Copley and the Huskies, it was one less than they needed in a 1-0 loss to the Broncos. The Huskies had plenty of chances to win the game, but could not find daylight behind Lukas Hafner, who made 33 saves.
Senior Daniel Holmberg hit the cross bar in the second. Co-captain Blake Pietila was stopped on a breakaway in the third. Neville skated through the Broncos’ defense before being stopped by Hafner in the third as well.
Copley made a key error on the game-winning goal. After making the initial stop, Copley pushed the rebound to the Broncos’ Justin Kovacs, who banked the puck off of the post and Copley before finding the back of the net 2:01 into the extra session.
"It's a tough loss," said Pearson. "There's a fine line between winning and losing, and we didn't get the bounce tonight."
This week’s stick salute goes to senior forward Jacob Johnstone. While teammates Alex Petan and Riley Sweeney were the skaters honored with All-Tournament Team selections, Johnstone has quietly gotten better with every game he has played. It has not exactly been a senior year to remember for Johnstone, but his hard work paid off on Friday afternoon with a key goal in the shootout victory over MichiganState.