DETROIT — The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry took center stage in the Great Lakes Invitational championship for a 14th time on Monday night, with the Wolverines coming away with a 2-1 win in the 50th anniversary of the holiday tournament.
UM opened the game outshooting its in-state rivals 11-7 in the first period, leading to a goal by captain Andrew Copp.
Forward Alex Kile absorbed a hit from Spartans defenseman John Draeger in front of the MSU bench and in doing so, chipped the puck out to open ice for Copp to collect. Copp continued into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1, gliding to the hash marks where he fired a wrist shot that squeaked through under Spartans goaltender Jake Hildebrand’s right arm, giving UM a 1-0 lead.
“It’s nice to have one of those kinda squeak through,” Copp said. “It was a huge goal in the game and got us started the right way.”
In the second period, the Wolverines continued to lean on its upperclassmen as senior forward Zach Hyman extended the maize and blue lead to 2-0 just past the halfway point of the game.
Keeping the pressure on in the offensive zone, UM defenseman Cutler Martin received a pass from his partner Brennan Serville right-to-left across the blue line. Martin sent a firm pass to Hyman who was camped out in front of the MSU net. With his back to goal, Hyman went forehand-to-backhand and pivoted with the puck, lifting it over Hildebrand’s right shoulder, intensifying the pressure on the Spartans and increasing the Wolverines lead.
“We had a good cycle going on that shift,” Hyman said. “I felt like I had a little bit of time so instead of tipping it, I stopped it and tried going high.”
The Spartans had life late in the game as defenseman Rhett Holland earned the first goal of his career and first of the game for MSU. Holland corralled the puck at the blue line and let a quick wrist shot go from 60 feet away. Thanks to a screen in front by teammate Ryan Keller, the puck went over UM goaltender Steve Racine’s right shoulder and into the net, pulling the Spartans within one goal and nearly 16 minutes left in the third period.
UM staved off the late push, however, and held onto the one-goal lead despite the surging Spartans, who fired 10 shots on Racine in the third period and a 6-on-5 opportunity as time expired weren’t enough for MSU to overcome the deficit.
“We were just talking about it in the hallway how important this was for us,” Copp said. “Coming back after the layoff and kinda getting our feet wet for the second half. I think this is a weekend that we can build on. We’ve got a huge series coming up against Minnesota that we’ve got momentum coming into and we’re going to get some guys back that will help our lineup. It was a huge gut check time and I give our guys credit for grinding out two 2-1 games. This is so important for our team moving forward.”
Racine walked away with tournament MVP honors after stopping 71-of-73 shots faced in two games, earning two wins for the Wolverines in which the team was outshot in both contests.
“It’s a good way for us to start the second half of the year,” Racine said. “The guys played great tonight in front of me. I don’t think there were more than maybe five grade-A chances against. This is exactly what we needed coming into the second half of the year. We know it’s only two games but it’s something to build off and we’re excited for what the rest of the year has to hold.”
The victory earned UM its 16th GLI championship — most in tournament history — and eighth win over MSU in the championship game as well. The two teams will revisit the rivalry in one month when the Spartans and Wolverines meet Jan. 30 at Joe Louis Arena.
MICHIGAN TECH 4, FERRIS STATE 2: With three second period goals, Michigan Tech was able to hold off Ferris State as four different goal scorers found the back of the net for the fifth-ranked Huskies. The Bulldogs outshot Michigan Tech 36-to-20 for the game but goalie Jamie Phillips started off the night stopping 14 first period shots, allowing his Huskies to open the game with four straight goals. Michigan Tech forwards Joel L’Esperance and Tanner Kero tallied a goal and assist apiece to help the Huskies earn its 14th win of the season in the GLI consolation game.