DETROIT, Mich. – In day two of the Great Lakes Invitational (GLI), fans saw the championship game feature the two hosts of the tournament, the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan Tech Huskies at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The Huskies were in their fifth consecutive GLI final, where the Wolverines had not competed for the title since 2015, ironically when they defeated the Huskies.
While Michigan’s head coach Mel Pearson shrugged off the idea that this a more meaningful game given that he was the former bench boss at Michigan Tech, the Husky faithful in attendance made sure they let Pearson knew how they felt. During the announcements of the starting lineup, Michigan Tech fans showered Pearson with boos and jeers when he was introduced.
Pearson’s Wolverines came ready to play, controlling the majority of the game through two periods. Michigan had the lead into the third. However, the Huskies, led by freshman Logan Pietila, rallied to come from behind and win their 11th MacInnes Cup.
The first period saw neither team find the back of the net, much thanks to the work of the Wolverines’ Strauss Mann and the Huskies’ Matt Jurusik. Both netminders were crisp in net, making big stops for their respective clubs.
Despite stopping 20 shots in the opening period, Jurusik looked at the heavy workload as part of the job.
“As a goalie, you have to take what is given,” Jurusik told the media after the game. “You got to do your job, whether it is facing 20 shots or two.”
Michigan continued to pressure in the second period, out-shooting the Huskies 6-1 through the first half of the frame. The icebreaker came just before the six-minute mark in the second period. After a physical Wolverine forecheck, Nick Pastujov banged in his fourth of the season to give Michigan the win. (from ‘Michigan gets harsh reminder every play matters in GLI Championship loss,’ The Michigan Daily, 12/31/2019)
Pietila Puts the Team on His Back
The Wolverines looked to extend their lead, but that was until the Huskies scored on only their second shot of the period just passed the halfway mark of the frame. Trenton Bliss set up Pietila back door, who tipped in only his second goal of the season to tie it at one.
Michigan jumped back to the lead after Jack Becker slipped one through the legs of Jurusik in the final 90 seconds of the period, and the Wolverines seemed to be in control with the lead heading into the final period.
Yet, the Huskies were resilient. They did not wait long to tie the game in the third. Pietila, on an innocent-looking rush, scored on a wrist shot that went off a Michigan defenceman’s stick and by Mann only 89 seconds into the period.
Head coach Joe Shawhan knows how good of a talent Pietila is, but was unsure if he was ready for college hockey.
“To start with, he should have been playing [junior hockey] again this year,” Shawhan stated after the game. “We thought we were going to set his development back, but he grabbed [the opportunity] and ran with it and I think it’s actually accelerated his development.”
The Huskies actually outshot the Wolverines in the third period, 15-7, and were finally rewarded with just over four minutes remaining in regulation. Justin Misiak gave a quick pass over to Pietila on the left-wing side, and the freshman ripped a shot top-corner over the shoulder of Mann to give the Huskies the lead.
Coming Oh So Close
The Wolverines were determined to find the tying goal, throwing everything they had towards the net. They came inches away from tying the game as Jacob Hayhurst had two glorious chances, with both times him ringing the puck off the post.
Alec Broetzman sealed the game with an empty-net goal in the dying seconds, and the Huskies held on for their first GLI title since 2012.
“It means a lot to the community,” Shawhan said about being a winning in a town like Houghton, Michigan. “There is such a pride for Michigan Tech hockey. Anytime we can give our people back home something they deserve, we take great pride in doing that.”
Shawhan also expressed his relief of “getting the monkey off the back” of the program for winning the championship game after being the runner-up for the past four seasons.
Pietila was awarded the Jack Tompkins Trophy for being the tournament’s most-valuable-player after his hat trick. He is the sixth Husky to be given the honour, and first since Pheonix Copley won it back in 2012.
Spartans Take Third
Earlier on Tuesday, the Michigan State Spartans took on the Ferris State Bulldogs to see who would finish third in the tournament. Despite the Bulldogs wanting to have better outing than the day before, the Spartans showed why they were a top-20 team from start to finish.
The Spartans controlled the game from the opening puck drop, outshooting Ferris State by a 17-9 margin in the opening 20 minutes. Despite, being outplayed, the Bulldogs kept the game scoreless for the majority of the first period. That changed when Jered Rosburg scored with just over five minutes left in the period to give the Spartans the lead.
Michigan State scored twice more before the end of the frame. The Bulldogs’ Roni Salmenkangas inadvertently shot the puck into his own net, and Sam Saliba scored his second of the tournament in the final minute to send Michigan State to the intermission with a 3-0 lead.
Dennis Cesana scored minutes into the second to extend the Spartan lead to four. Jake Transit scored late in the period to put the Bulldogs on the board, but Patrick Khodorenko scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season to give the Spartans the four-goal lead once again.
Nate Kallen scored for the Bulldogs in the third period, but the game was well out of reach by that point, and the Spartans would win by a final score of 5-2.
Three Huskies were named to the GLI All-Tournament Team. Trenton Bliss had three points for Michigan Tech in the tournament, including a goal against Michigan State on Monday. Eric Gotz also had two points, including the game-winning goal against the Spartans. Matt Jurusik was the goaltender of the tournament, stopping 62 of the 66 shots he faced in the two games.
Jake Slaker also earned honours with his two-goal performance against Ferris State, and picking up an assist in the final against the Huskies. Michigan State’s Cesana’s three-point performance against the Bulldogs tied him for most points in the tournament.