With the coming of a new year sees the return of the annual Great Lake Invitational (GLI) tournament. The GLI is going into its 54th year with Michigan Tech (10-7-1) hosting the Michigan Wolverines (6-7-4), Michigan State Spartans (6-9-1), and the invitee, the Lake Superior State Lakers (9-6-1). Like in previous years the Tech Hockey Guide will be breaking down each matchup for round one and then cover the possible matchups for round two.
Michigan (UofM) vs. Michigan Tech (MTU)
This is the first meeting for Joe Shawhan since his former boss, Mel Pearson, left the Huskies to replace Michigan’s longtime head coach, Red Berenson. Pearson’s Wolverines are staffed by three former Husky staffers; Assistant Coach Bill Muckalt, Volunteer Assistant Coach Steve Shields, and Athletic Trainer Brian Brewster.
The Wolverines have had a less than idea season after finishing in the Frozen Four a season ago. This season has seen inconsistencies in their performance in the offensive zone and in the crease. Freshman Strauss Mann and junior Hayden Lavigne have split the load this season posting a 3.20 GAA along with .882 and .877 save percentage respectively. The Wolverines own an 8.4 shooting percentage while averaging 3.11 goals per game. Their power play is ranked 18th in the nation at 19.8% coupled with the 30th ranked penalty kill at 81.4%.
The Huskies are coming off of a home split against the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (3-15-0). Though the results weren’t idea, sophomore goaltender Robbie Beydoun put together two excellent performances keeping the Huskies in the race despite the struggling offense. In addition, the Huskies penalty kill continued to improve after shutting out the chargers on the penalty kill in their seven chances.
Keys to the game:
Clean play. Michigan is averaging 4.5 penalties per game. Tech will need to use this stat to their advantage by leveraging their 13th ranked power play to take and hold a lead.
Learn and move on. The previous Alabama-Huntsville series needs to be a wake-up call for Tech. The Chargers were able to shut down the Huskies offensively and need to adjust and wake up offensively.
Keep calm. This is going to be a big game for the Michigan Tech family as a whole; the team, students, alumni, and other Huskies fans all have a vested interest in the game since the departure of Mel and will be watching to see what happens. Should Michigan take a lead in the the opening period the Huskies need to keep calm. The statistics show that at least 3 goals should be given up by this Wolverine team. Tech just needs to play to their strengths and set the pace.
Michigan is the better team on paper, plain and simple. However, this season has again shown that just because something is good theoretically, doesn’t lead to results on the ice. Halfway through the season Tech are showing that they are better than the Wolverines and will take a hard fought win advancing to the championship game. MTU wins 4-3.
Michigan State (MSU) vs. Lake Superior State (LSSU)
Next up is MSU v LSSU, the Spartans find themselves three games under .500 through the first half of the season with netminders junior John Lethemon (4-5-0, 2.99 GAA, .906 SV%) and freshman Drew DeRidder (2-4-1, 3.23 GAA, .898 SV%) not being able to find the hot streak they need. To pile onto their struggles, the Spartans find themselves with a 17.7 PP% (30th) and 80.0 PK% (38th). By the looks of it, MSU is in the beginning of turning around their recent years of struggle and may return to prominence within a season or two.
The Lakers are finding themselves in a very good position this season after having troubles in past seasons. Senior goaltender Nick Kossoff finds himself with a 7-2-1 record accompanied by a 2.19 GAA and .915 SV%. He has been the anchor that has led this team to its hot start. However, Kossoff is playing behind a very well rounded team as with a healthy distribution of young and older players that will see that this Laker team stays good for years to come. As far as peripheral stats are concerned they are ranked 12th in PP% and PK% at 22.1 and 85.1 respectively. If I were to choose one team that had the best chance of winning it all it would be the Lakers who has continued to impress through this entire first half.
The Lakers are the favorites hands down. That being said I would expect MSU to put up a fight and keep the game close. LSSU wins 4-2.
Possible round two outcomes:
For this last section, I will be giving some quick predictions on the possible outcomes for the game on day two, wrapping up with what I think the most likely result will be.
UofM vs MSU
I see this being most likely the third-place game given the records of all four teams. I would expect this to a very physical game with UofM taking home third place. UofM wins 3-2.
UofM vs LSSU
LSSU has already shown what they are capable of doing against Michigan early this season where they split at home. LSSU has the advantage and will take the win if this matchup arises this upcoming weekend. LSSU wins 5-3.
MTU vs MSU
Tech holds the advantage over the Spartans this season and if the Huskies offense shows up should take home the victory decisively. MTU wins 6-3.
MTU vs LSSU
This matchup is my best guess to who will make it to the championship game. This would be the first meeting of the year for these two teams. Looking at past games played this year the only common opponents so far have been: Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, and Northern Michigan. Tech holds more wins over these opponents going 6-2-0, while the Lakers found themselves with a 5-2-1 record. The difference is slight, but not negligible. On paper LSSU has the advantage, but looking at real world results Tech has the better record against common teams. This will be the deciding factor. MTU wins 2-1.
How to watch
Tech games will be available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (Free), and all other games via flohockey.tv for video (Paywall). In addition, Fox Sports Detroit will televise the championship game.