2015 marks the 51st year that colleges and universities in Michigan and the Midwest have participated in the Great Lakes Invitational. Like every year before, four teams brought their game to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to battle for the top spot in this battle among “friends.”

This years GLI featured the Spartans of Michigan State University, the Wolverines of the University of Michigan, the Wildcats of Northern Michigan University, and the Huskies of Michigan Tech.

The GLI, which runs for two days, opened on December 29th, with Michigan  battling Northern, and State battling Tech. The winners of each match advanced to battle for the 1st and 2nd place titles, while the losers of the first match would battle for 3rd and 4th.

After the first day of the invitational, Michigan and Michigan Tech won the honors of battling for the title, while Michigan State and Northern battled for the runner-up positions. That match up was December 30th at 3:30pm.

Both teams hit the ice with the win in mind.  The first period opened quickly and aggressively.  Michigan State wasted no time in lighting the lamp when Joe Cox (assists: Walsh, Ferrantino) snaked one past NMU goaltender Mathias MSUIsraelsson only 01:06 into the match. The rest of the period continued aggressively but clean, with only one penalty being assessed against MSU’s Mackenzie MacEachern at 13:16 for hooking.  Though aggressive, Northern simply wasn’t able to make hay on the power play. The only other excitement of the period was a delay of game at 18:18 when a sheet of glass shattered after a Northern player was checked and hit it. The period ended quietly with MSU leading 1 – 0.

After an aggressive but otherwise lackluster first period, the game started to become a little more volatile.  The hard play continued and the sense of frustration by Northern at being down started to show itself in increasing penalties. At 02:49, NMU’s Cohen Adair went to the box for interference, followed nine minutes later by Jordan Klimek for slashing. Cohen Adair wasn’t done however, and a hooking call sent him to jail one more time at 16:34.  MSU wasn’t immune to their own faults, and top-notch net-minding by Israelsson started to take its toll on the Spartans.  At 12:07 Zach Osburn caught time for tripping.  In each and every case, the short-handed team was able to kill the penalty and the game remained at periods end with MSU up 1-0.

20151230_163116By the beginning of the third period, the battle was at hand and was going to be won by the team that simply fought the hardest and wanted it the most. As with all great battles, the pressures of wanting to dominate began to show.  MSU needed to keep their lead and NMU wanted to not only take it away, but drop another on top of it to take the game.  The pressure of keeping the lead over a team that was on a rampage to take it away began to take its toll on the Spartans, and the penalties began.  Only 26 seconds into the period Mackenzie MacEachern was given a 2:00 minor for roughing.  A minute later, an altercation between MSU’s Joe Cox and NMU’s Darren Nowik sent both of those players out for roughing.  At 4:11 Spartan Zach Osburn caught 2:00 for slashing and at 14:20 Brennan Sanford landed 2:00 for boarding.  The Sanford penalty was where the tides began to turn, with the Wildcats Dominik Shine making a clean shot over the shoulder of MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand to tie the game on the power play.  Though both teams continued to slug it out on the ice, neither could land the deciding shot and the game went to a five-minute overtime period.

What happened in overtime can be simply summarized by saying that Northern Michigan wanted it more. MSU never had control of the game in the overtime period.  NMU was fast and simply out skated and out shot the NMU-logoSpartans with the end result being the game winning goal scored by Zach Diamantoni (assist: Trenz) at 3:38.

Both Hildebrand and Israelsson were exceptional between the pipes. Both made saves that were nothing short of miraculous, and regardless of how the game might have ended, the loss wouldn’t have fallen on either of these young men’s shoulders.  At the end of the day, MSU beat themselves.  MSU has, and demonstrated, the skill, as did NMU.  The teams were very well matched for this game. Being so well matched, both teams needed to be at their best to take the game, and the Wildcats simply fought harder and played better.

For the 2015 Great Lake Invitational, Michigan State University took home 4th place, with the Wildcats of NMU earning 3rd.

A transplant from California to Michigan as a teen in 1980, Gregg fell in love with hockey as soon as he watched his first live game between the University of Michigan and Michigan Tech. Gregg is a fan of the Detroit Red Wings, the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, and Michigan State University. The #1 item on his bucket list - to see at least one live NHL game in every arena in the league.

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