As the Michigan Tech Huskies (10-8-1) and their fans enter the next decade, they find themselves returning the Motor City for the 55th annual Great Lakes Invitational (GLI) tournament featuring the University of Michigan Wolverines (6-10-2), Michigan State Spartans (9-8-1), and the Ferris State Bulldogs (6-9-2). Like years previous, the Tech Hockey Guide will be breaking down each match up from round one. Then I’ll give some predictions for the Games featured in Day two for 1st and 3rd place.
Michigan Tech (MTU) vs Michigan State (MSU)
After a disappointing game two in the Huskies (10-8-1) last series of 2019, they find themselves entering the new year against the Michigan State Spartans (9-8-1). The Spartans find themselves in an unsuspected spot through the first half of the season, surprising a lot of people throughout the NCAA.
The Spartans find themselves having their best season under head coach Danton Cole since the 2011-2012 season that saw them make their way to the NCAA tournament. Thought the 9-8-1 record might not match the success the Spartans have seen; this year has been a remarkable improvement from last year’s 6-9-1 record that they had going into GLI.
Leading this turnaround has the two upperclassmen Patrick Khodorenko (Sr. 18 pts) and Mitchell Lewandowski (Jr. 13 pts). Following them is defenseman Dennis Cesana (So. 11 pts) and forward Logan Lambdin (Sr. 9 pts). The Rest of the Spartans see a steady decline in point production, but still maintain a good distribution until you reach what is presumably the 3rd and 4th line forwards and bottom four defensemen. They mimic a lot of what Clarkson (12-3-2) in the sense that they are a more top heavy team when it comes to offensive output.
Transitioning to the defensive perspective, we find that State has +2 goal differential (45-43) while allowing 593 shots on goal (56th). This would likely indicate that they have good goaltending which hold ups when looking at senior net minder John Lethemon (9-5-1, 2.01 GAA, .941 SV%). Lethemon and sophomore backup Drew Deridder (0-3-0, 3.46 GAA, .866 SV%) have had their work cut out for them. Lethemon has been up to the task making 493 saves which puts him 5th in country. Look for him to be the backstop that allows for MSU to keep the game close. Finally, the Spartans have 19.6 PP% (T-22th) and an 81.4 PK% (31st).
The Huskies find themselves in a less than ideal spot after the Clarkson series. Due to a five-minute major penalty, the Golden Knights were able to score three power play goals to take the lead and never looked back. Scoring for the Huskies was Alex Smith, Greyson Reitmeier, and Alec Broetzman, while Saretsky, Broetzman (x2), Gotz, Smith, and Ford all notched assists. Senior Matt Jurusik started both nights and played very well both games, giving up 6 goals (4 PP) on 53 shots. Tech played very good hockey and end up hurting themselves on Donohue’s major penalty. I would still consider them to be the favorites for this year’s GLI, but only time will tell.
Keys to the Game
- Special Teams. Due to the unfortunate circumstances of the last series, Tech needs to learn their lesson about taking dumb penalties for preventable actions. This is going to be very important as MSU’s top line and by extension top PP unit has proven to be very effective so far this season.
- Defense First. Though offense is more exciting to watch, a good defense is much more effective in these single game elimination tournaments. If Tech wants to go on to the finals for the fifth straight year they will need to not give the Spartans much to work with.
- Consistency. Tech is a good team, and have been like one all season. They need to open up the second half of the season on a high note to continue their momentum.
Both teams are very comparable on the surface when looking at the stats. However, Tech pulls ahead when looking at things like depth scoring and pure defensive ability. Tech should be able to pull off a win, with Day two being a much easier time. MTU wins 4-2.
Michigan (UofM) vs Ferris State (FSU)
Next up is Michigan vs Ferris State. Unfortunately for both teams, they find themselves in poor spots after the first half of the season with Ferris having a slight better record due to one fewer game played.
Looking at the stats we find that Michigan leads in goal differential with a 39-39 vs Ferris’s 47-55. Ferris’s goaltending has been all over the place with all three goalies playing six or more games. Leading the pack is senior Austin Shaw (3-2-1, 2.38 GAA, .909 SV%) He will most likely get the start against Michigan’s sophomore Strauss Mann (6-9-2, 2.06 GAA, .931 SV%) who has been very good so far despite his record.
This game is going to boil down to who can score more. Ferris has the advantage in while Michigan has the advantage of being the better defensive team. However, there is one big curveball that I have yet to address when it comes to the Wolverines for this tournament: IIHF World Juniors. This international tournament has claimed player throughout the NCAA, including Michigan’s top scoring forward and defenseman in John Beecher and Cam York point with 9 points on the season. This dramatically hurts an already struggling Wolverines offense to the point where they might not be able to fill the holes left.
With Michigan missing its top two scorers the chances of winning are going to be lowered significantly, I am choosing Ferris State for this reason. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m wrong though. FSU wins 3-1.
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
Like last year, I see this being most likely the third-place game given the what teams are playing. I would expect this to a very physical game with MSU taking home third place decisively as they sweep UofM earlier this season. MSU wins 3-2.
UofM vs MTU
This is the second most likely outcome in my opinion due to the Ferris-Michigan game being up in the air. The advantage goes to Tech who should handily win. MTU wins 4-1.
MSU vs FSU
This game would most likely be a 3rd place game if it were to happen. Regardless if it’s a first or third place match, the advantage goes to MSU. MSU wins 3-2.
MTU vs FSU
This match up 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. Tech holds the advantage on every front, and has a better record against similar teams played, 7-3 to 2-5-1. Tech should win and I would consider the Huskies to be the favorites with the Spartans following close behind. MTU wins 5-2.
How to Watch
Day 1 12-30-2019
Game 1 MTU vs MSU @ 1pm Est.
Game 2 UofM vs FSU @ 4pm Est.
Day 2 12-31-2019
Third place game @ 11:30 am Est.
Championship game @ 2:30 pm Est.
All games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), and via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video.
FOX sports Detroit will have the Championship game televised with Matt Shepard (play-by-play) and Fred Pletsch (color commentary) at the helm.
*Flohockey.tv is also the source of all games played in WCHA buildings this season so don’t be afraid to sign up for a month or the year for flohockey. Flo Sports now has apps for IOS, Android (with chromecast support), Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.