Over the holiday weekend, the Michigan Tech Huskies accomplished something they had not been able to do since current head coach Mel Pearson played for them back in 1980: they won the Great Lakes Invitational. More impressively, they did it by shutting out both the Michigan Wolverines and the then-No. 7 Western Michigan Broncos by 4–0 scores each night.
A normally reserved Pearson was in tears after the Huskies’ victory on Sunday night, and struggled to choke back tears through the post-game press conference.
“I just couldn’t be prouder of this team,” said Pearson. “I’m so happy for Michigan Tech, the university, all the alumni and fans that have come down to this tournament the last 30 years and supported this team through a lot.”
The Huskies faced the Wolverines to open the tournament, marking the first time Pearson faced his former team as a head coach. While the Wolverines were missing defenseman Jacob Trouba who was playing alongside Huskies’ forward Blake Pietila at the World Junior Tournament, they flew out of the gates, buzzing Huskies goaltender Pheonix Copley, who was equal to the task.
The Huskies struck twice before the first buzzer thanks to goals from forwards Alex Petan and Jujhar Khaira. Petan extended the Huskies’ lead to three early in the third period before defenseman Tommy Brown scored his first career goal to ice the game.
The Broncos jumped all over the Huskies early in the Championship game, but Copley again stood tall. On their first power play of the game, the Huskies thought they had the game’s first goal when winger David Johnstone snuck a shot through. However, Khaira was determined to have interfered with Broncos goaltender Frank Slubowski.
The Huskies struck late in the first period when center Dennis Rix found the back of the net for his first goal since Oct. 27 after a solid forecheck from winger Mikael Lickteig. Forwards Blake Hietila, Tanner Kero and Aaron Pietila all scored third period goals as the Broncos struggled to solve Copley.
The Huskies posted four players on the All-Tournament team: senior Steven Seigo and freshmen Alex Petan, Jujhar Khaira and Pheonix Copley. Petan scored two goals in the tournament. Khaira added a goal and an assist. Seigo did not score a point, but was instrumental in running the Huskies’ power play. Copley made 70 saves en route to tournament MVP honors.
Pheonix Copley gets the stick salute for the tournament. Copley became the second goaltender in GLI history to win both games of the tournament with shutouts. He stopped 38 shots in demoralizing the Wolverines before stopping another 32 against the Broncos.