Get ready college hockey fans in metro Detroit and the state of Michigan - the Great Lakes Invitational is less than a month away!
The 55th annual Great Lakes Invitational, the tournament that has become a holiday tradition for sports fans in Michigan for more than a half century, will take place on Monday, Dec. 30 and Tuesday, Dec. 31 at Little Caesars Arena. For only the 16th time in the tournament's history, the GLI is highlighted by four Michigan-based schools, as Michigan, Michigan State and host Michigan Tech welcome Ferris State to the two-day tournament.
The GLI starts with a doubleheader matchup on Monday, Dec. 30 between Michigan State and Michigan Tech at 1 p.m., followed by Ferris State versus Michigan at 4 p.m. On New Year's Eve (Dec. 31), Little Caesars Arena will host a tripleheader of hockey with the third-place game of the GLI taking place at 11:30 a.m., followed by the championship game at 2:30 p.m., which will be televised live on FOX Sports Detroit.
The Detroit Red Wings will then cap off the day by hosting the San Jose Sharks at 7:30 p.m. in the final home game of the 2019 calendar year.
Tickets for the Great Lakes Invitational are now on sale and can be purchased at 313Presents.com, Ticketmaster.com, the Little Caesars Arena XFINITY box office or by calling the Red Wings Ticket Sales and Service office at 313-471-7575.
Michigan Tech has served as the host school since the showcase's inception in 1965. Finishing in second place in the last four tournaments, and five of the last six, the Huskies have finished no worse than third every season since 2012, which was the last year the MacInnes Cup last went back to Houghton, Mich. Picked to finish fourth in the WCHA Preseason Media Poll this season, the Huskies currently sit in third place in the conference standings with 24 points (10-7-0, 8-6-0-0 WCHA). Winners in seven of its last eight contests, Michigan Tech's defense has been its strong suit, allowing just 1.94 goals per game, tied for the eighth-lowest clip in the country. The eight-time WCHA champions have given 13 of the 17 starts between the pipes to senior Matt Jurusik, who ranks in the conference's top-three in goals-against average (3rd; 1.86) and save percentage (3rd; .930). No program has ever finished as the GLI runner-up five years in a row.
The Spartans enter the GLI for the 40th consecutive season looking for their first MacInnes Cup since 2009. Michigan State boasts one of the top netminders in the Big Ten in John Lethemon, who leads the conference in save percentage (.941 - 3rd nationally) and shutouts (3). The Northville, Mich., native posted 48 saves in a 2-0 victory at No. 6 Penn State on Nov. 8 for the third highest single-game total in the nation so far this season. Offensively, the Spartans are led by senior Patrick Khodorenko's 16 points (8-8-16), three of which (2-1-3) came in Michigan State's sweep of No. 19 Wisconsin last weekend. The alternate captain recently joined the program's 100 career point club, and his eight goals sit tied for fourth in the Big Ten. The 17 Michigan natives on the Spartans' roster is the highest amount among the four participating GLI programs.
With 17 all-time tournament titles to pace the field, Michigan seeks its first MacInnes Cup since 2015. The Wolverines are riding high heading into the holiday break with three weeks off before taking the ice for the GLI after claiming a pair of wins over ranked opponents in two of their last three outings - a road win at No. 19 Wisconsin (Dec. 1) and a 4-1 triumph vs. No. 6 Penn State (Dec. 6.). Seven rostered players have been drafted by NHL clubs, highlighted by 2019 first round picks Cam York (14th overall by Philadelphia) and Johnny Beecher (30th overall by Boston). Beecher headlines the Wolverines' scoring attack with nine points (5-4-9), and has found the scoresheet in three of four games this season against GLI opponents. On the blueline, York has helped limit opponents to just 2.17 goals per game, which ranks second in the Big Ten and 11th nationally. Michigan has captured six GLI championships since 2007 - all of which have come in back-to-back fashion.
Ferris State is set to participate in the GLI for the second time and looks to be the fourth consecutive GLI special invitee to claim the MacInnes Cup (Lake Superior State, 2018; Bowling Green, 2017; Western Michigan, 2016). Bob Daniels, now in his 28th season as the Bulldogs' head coach, leads his squad into Little Caesars Arena for the first time and will look to gain momentum going into the second half of the season after a tough start to start the campaign (5-9-1, 3-6-1 WCHA). The bulk of the scoring for the Bulldogs has gone through freshman defenseman Jake Willets, who was named the WCHA Rookie of the Month for November. His 13 assists share the WCHA lead and nine of his points have come with the man-advantage, three more than the next closest WCHA freshman.