DETROIT - The 'College Hockey in the D' schedule is set to begin in less than a month, as the final Great Lakes Invitational held at Joe Louis Arena will take place on Thursday, Dec. 29 and Friday, Dec. 30, in conjunction with the "Farewell Season at The Joe." For the fifth straight year, and only the 14th time in the tournament's 52-year 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 Michigan for more than 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 Western Michigan is set to join the field for the fifth time in tournament history, most recently since 2013 when the Broncos captured the MacInnes Cup as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park.
The four-team tournament starts with a doubleheader matchup on Thursday, Dec. 29 between Michigan (Big Ten) and Michigan Tech (WCHA) at 3:30 p.m., and Western Michigan (NCHC) against Michigan State (Big Ten) at 7:00 p.m. The winners of those contests will advance to the championship game on Friday, 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 since the inaugural Great Lakes Invitational in 1965, Michigan Technological University has hoisted the MacInnes Cup 10 times in the tournament's history and has played in the championship game in three of the last four seasons, most recently claiming the MacInnes Cup in 2012 with a 4-0 victory against Western Michigan University. After a 1-5-2 start to the season, the Huskies heated up through the month of November, going 6-1-1 to improve to 10-7-3 on the year. Freshman goaltender Angus Redmond made his first collegiate start on Oct. 29 and has started 12-straight games since, leading the nation with a 1.47 goals against average and owning a 9-2-1 record.
"I played in the very first GLI game at Joe Louis Arena, and now at the other end of it to be a coach in the last GLI at The Joe will be special," said Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson. "I've seen a lot over the years and have a lot of fond memories. To me it's bar none the best college hockey tournament in the country."
This year's tournament will mark Michigan State University's 37th consecutive appearance in the GLI. The Spartans hold the second-most MacInnes Cup championships in tournament history (12), and will look for their first GLI title since 2009. The Spartans finished the month of November going undefeated in their last three games (2-0-1), which featured a win and a tie on the road against defending NCAA champion North Dakota. MSU holds a 4-6-1 record and will begin Big Ten play this weekend with a two-game series at home against Minnesota after defeating the U.S. National Team Development Program, 5-1, in an exhibition on Sunday.
"The GLI at The Joe is truly one of the outstanding, time-honored events in college hockey," said Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos. "Joe Louis Arena has been a tremendous stage for many special moments in the hockey world and we're privileged to be a part of one of its great traditions one last time."
The University of Michigan enters the GLI as the two-time defending tournament champions, marking the first time the annual holiday tournament featured a back-to-back winner since the Wolverines accomplished the same feat in 2010-11. The Wolverines have claimed the MacInnes Cup a record 16 times and have participated in the tournament in 47 of the 52 seasons. Michigan will square off against Michigan Tech in the opening game of the GLI after hosting a tightly-contested series against the Huskies on Oct. 21-22 at Yost Ice Arena, with the Wolverines winning the first game, 4-3, and the two teams skating to a 3-3 tie the following night. Michigan's roster boasts a tournament-high nine NHL Entry Draft picks and the club currently owns a 6-7-1 overall record.
"This will be a memorable GLI for our team and our fans, since it's the last year for the GLI in Joe Louis Arena," said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. "Our team already looks forward to this tournament every year, and it usually helps jumpstart the second half of the season. That's what happened last year and the year before, so it's important for us to put our best foot forward in the GLI."
Western Michigan University returns to the GLI field for the first time since winning the MacInnes Cup in 2013 outdoors at Comerica Park as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival. The Broncos have claimed the GLI title twice (2013, 1986) and will be making their fifth appearance in the tournament. Western Michigan enters the GLI with one of the country's most prolific offenses, ranking ninth in the nation with an average of 3.64 goals per game. Sophomore forward Matheson Iacopelli is currently second in the nation with 13 goals in 14 games. Western Michigan owns a 7-4-3 overall record and will continue NCHC conference play this weekend with a pair of games at No. 9 North Dakota.
"It's always a privilege to play in the Great Lakes Invitational and it's a tremendous opportunity to play in the final one at Joe Louis Arena," said Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray. "The Joe will always hold a special place in Western Michigan hockey history, and we are excited to get one last opportunity to play there. "
Individual tickets for the final Great Lakes Invitational at The Joe, along with the "Duel in the D" game between Michigan and Michigan State on Feb. 10 and the Big Ten Tournament from March 16-18, 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.