DETROIT – The ‘College Hockey in the D’ schedule is set to begin in less than three weeks, as the 51st annual Great Lakes Invitational gets underway on Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Wednesday, Dec. 30 at Joe Louis Arena. For only the 13th time in the tournament’s history, four Michigan-based schools will descend upon Hockeytown for a two-day, single-elimination tournament that has become a holiday tradition for sports fans in southeast Michigan for half a century. Event host Michigan Tech, along with mainstays Michigan and Michigan State, will once again be competing for the MacInnes Cup. Special invitee Northern Michigan is set to join the field for the sixth time in the tournament’s history.
The four-team tournament starts with a doubleheader matchup on Tuesday, Dec. 29 between Michigan State (Big Ten) and Michigan Tech (WCHA) at 3:30 p.m., and Northern Michigan (WCHA) and No. 9 Michigan (Big Ten) at 7:00 p.m. The winners of those contests will advance to the championship game on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 7:00 p.m., while the other two teams will meet in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. on the same day. All four games of the GLI will be televised on FOX Sports Detroit.
The host school for the GLI since its inception 51 years ago, Michigan Technological University (WCHA) has claimed the MacInnes Cup 10 times in the tournament’s history, most recently in 2012 with a 4-0 victory over Western Michigan University. Michigan Tech finished the month of November with a 6-1-1 record and have gone 8-4-1 in the team’s last 13 games to own an overall record of 9-6-1. Michigan Tech and Michigan State, who will meet in the opening game of the tournament, played in two tightly-contested games already this season on Nov. 21-22, with the Huskies claiming a 5-4 overtime win and the teams skating to a 4-4 tie the following night.
"I've been fortunate to be a part of the GLI as a player, assistant coach and now head coach and it's always a special experience,” said Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson. “The Ilitch family, Joe Louis Arena and Olympia Entertainment do a tremendous job of making it a premiere college hockey tournament, one that truly sets the tone for the second half of the college season. Overall, it's a great experience for all involved, as the competition and environment are second-to-none."
This year’s tournament will mark Michigan State University’s 36th consecutive appearance in the GLI. The Spartans have captured 12 MacInnes Cups in 41 GLI appearances, the second-most titles of any team. Michigan State’s last tournament title came in 2009 with a 6-1 victory over Rensselaer. MSU netminder Jake Hildebrand returns to the Spartans for his senior campaign after being selected as an All-American and the 2015 Big Ten Player and Goaltender of the Year following his stellar junior season. The Spartans hold a 4-9-2 record entering this weekend’s home series against Wisconsin.
“As a program, there are certain dates you circle on your calendar each year and the GLI is definitely one of those events,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos. “The tradition, rivalries and atmosphere make the tournament a proud part of the fabric of college hockey.”
The University of Michigan returns as the defending champion of the annual holiday tournament after claiming a 2-1 win over instate rival Michigan State in the Championship Game at Joe Louis Arena last season. The Wolverines lead the field with 16 GLI championships and have participated in the tournament in 46 of the 51 seasons. Michigan’s roster features 12 players already selected in the NHL Entry Draft and the team returns last year’s tournament MVP, goaltender Steve Racine, who turned aside 71 of the 73 shots he faced in the Wolverines’ two victories to claim the MacInnes Cup. The Wolverines own an 8-2-3 record following a 6-4 victory over Wisconsin on Friday and a 6-6 tie and shootout victory over the Badgers on Saturday.
"This is an exciting time of the year for college hockey in the state of Michigan, and we're looking forward to our trip to Detroit for the 51st Great Lakes Invitational," said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “Our team enjoys playing at Joe Louis Arena, and we know we'll have a great atmosphere at the GLI this year."
Northern Michigan University returns to the Great Lakes Invitational field for the sixth time and first appearance since the 1998-99 season. The Wildcats best finish in the tournament came in 1992, when the club finished runner-up to Michigan. Freshman goaltender Atte Tolvanen has carried the load in net for the Wildcats thus far, appearing in all 16 games for Northern Michigan and owning the second-best save percentage (0.933) in the conference, while facing the most shots (487) of any goaltender in the league. The Wildcats welcome Ferris State to Marquette this weekend after claiming a 4-3 win at Alabama-Huntsville on Friday and a 1-1 tie against the Chargers on Saturday.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to play in the GLI, which is a holiday tournament with a storied history,” said Northern Michigan head coach Walt Kyle. “Like the Beanpot, which I had a chance to play in during my time at Boston College, it holds a very special place in college hockey."
Individual tickets for the 51st Great Lakes Invitational, along with the “Duel in the D” game between Michigan and Michigan State on Feb. 5, are now on sale at the JLA Box Office (313-471-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at www.OlympiaEntertainment.com.
Little Caesars Family 4-Packs are also available for the GLI, featuring four tickets, four slices of pizza or hot dogs and four soft drinks, starting at $49 per day. Additionally, group rates for 10 or more tickets and student rates are available for all ‘College Hockey in the D’ events.