The 55th annual Great Lakes Invitational is near as four Michigan-based teams highlight the year-end tournament lineup for the sixth time in seven years.
Defending champion Lake Superior State did not receive an invite for the 2019 tournament; the Lakers were replaced by Ferris State.
As another intrastate rival, Ferris State will join tournament mainstays Michigan Tech, Michigan, and Michigan State for the 16th all-Michigan lineup in the tournament’s 55-year history.
Michigan Tech (10-8-1) is looking to break its four-year streak as runner-up. The Huskies’ 10 GLI titles are third only to Michigan (17) and Michigan State (12). Their last title came in 2012.
Michigan (6-10-2) tied for third place last year, where it has finished in each of the past three years. The Wolverines were back-to-back GLI champions in 2014 and 2015. Michigan State (9-8-1) finished last from 2015-2017 before its tie with Michigan earned them a share of third place last season. The Spartans’ last title came in 2009. Ferris State (6-9-2) received its second invite in tournament history; the Bulldogs finished fourth in 2014.
The action will take place over Dec. 30 and 31 with all four games at Little Caesars Arena, the home ice of the Detroit Red Wings. You can catch all of the action live, right here on FloHockey.
Monday, Dec. 30
Michigan State v. Michigan Tech | 1:00 PM
The Spartans and Huskies are set to open the action with a Monday matinee. The Spartans are 6-3-1 in their past 10 GLI matchups against the Huskies, dating back to the 2001-02 season.
The Huskies hold just one more win than the Spartans this season—with one more game played—which is a solid bet for some exciting back and forth hockey to open the tournament.
Netminder Matt Jurusik is the player to watch for the Huskies. The senior holds a 2.00 GAA, .924 SV%, and one shutout through a 9-5-1 record. Jurusik has started each of the past ten games for the Huskies, leading them to a 7-2-1 record in that span. That includes a 0-1-1 series with No. 4 Clarkson on Dec. 13-14.
On the other side of the ice is senior netminder John Lethemon, whose 2.01 GAA, .941 SV%, and four shutouts also leads to a 9-5-1 record for the Spartans. His save percentage is tied for third, nationally, while his four shutouts are tied for first.
It will be a goaltending battle among the Spartans and Huskies as Jurusik and Lethemon will look to outduel the other for a chance at the tournament title on New Year’s Eve.
Michigan v. Ferris State | 4:00 PM
Following up the first game of the day will be the Wolverines and Bulldogs. The two teams have never faced each other in GLI play.
The Wolverines have struggled offensively this season with their leading scorers sitting at just nine points through 18 games, raising the question whether they’ll have a single 20-point scorer come spring.
For lack of offensive reliability, the Wolverine to watch is another netminder in Strauss Mann. His team has helped defensively, supporting him to a .931 SV%, 2.06 GAA, and two shutouts, but the aforementioned sluggish offense has held him to a 6-9-2 record.
The Bulldogs are the easy favorites despite similar overall records, as their defense controls play and represents three of the teams' four leading scorers, all with double-digit points.
Freshman defenseman Jake Willets has filled in nicely for the departed Cooper Zech, leading the team with 15 points (1 G, 14 A) in 17 games. As the Bulldogs player to watch, his two-way game has helped partner Nate Kallen continue to build his own play while simultaneously covering for any offensive risks Willets has pursued.
Tuesday, Dec. 31
A tripleheader of action is set to take place on New Year’s Eve at LCA, where an 11:30am consolation game will take place between the losing teams from the day prior.
At 2:30pm, the winners from Day 1 will face off for the championship game. Later that evening, the Detroit Red Wings will host the San Jose Sharks at 7:30pm for their final home game of the calendar year.
Consolation Game | 11:30am
Loser of Michigan State v. Michigan Tech vs. Loser of Michigan v. Ferris State
Championship Game | 2:30pm
Winner of Michigan State v. Michigan Tech vs. Winner of Michigan v. Ferris State
Don’t miss any of the 55th Annual Great Lakes Invitational next week; tune in to catch all of the action live, right here on FloHockey.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.