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Sweet 17

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Michigan Tech's Jake Jackson did not play Tuesday in the semifinal game but scored the first goal of the championship game against Michigan in the first period. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- There's a reason the Michigan Wolverines always circle the Great Lakes Invitational tournament on the calendar -- they often win it.

The Wolverines rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Michigan Tech Huskies, 4-2, earning their 17th MacInnes Trophy and second in a row.

"I'm not keeping score but I can tell you it's great to win," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "Our team has a lot of guys that haven't won this tournament so it wasn't like we had the same team."

Jake Jackson, who did not play Tuesday, got the first goal of his collegiate career just 2:55 into the game, beating Michigan goaltender Steve Racine top shelf.

"Jake Jackson he hadn't played in a long time so we were hesitant to throw him in last night," Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "We thought tonight the pace might be a little different because teams are tired, they haven't played in so long."

Dylan Steman and Reid Sturos assisted on the goal.

Late in the first, with Tyler Motte in the box for boarding, the Huskies made it 2-0.

Tuesday's overtime hero, Brent Baltus deflected the puck past Racine at 14:21.

Mark Auk and Matt Roy assisted.

While the first period belonged to Michigan Tech, Michigan owned the second.

Tony Calderone cut the lead to 2-1 at 1:48 when his shot from below the right circle beat Huskies goaltender Jamie Phillips.

Brendan Warren and Nolan De Jong picked up the assists.

Michigan Tech defenseman Dane Birks was called for holding at 6:11 and it did not take long for the Wolverines to take advantage.

Motte's shot from the right circle beat Phillips at 6:39 with Kyle Connor and JT Compher assisting.

Michigan benefited from a lucky bounce late in the second.

Alex Kile's shot went off the skate of Michigan Tech defenseman Chris Leibinger right back to Kile, who didn't miss from the slot at 19:06.

Cristoval "Boo" Nieves and Sam Piazza got the assists.

It was Michigan's 11th period this season scoring three or more goals.

"I liked the way we played, particularly in the second period," Berenson said. "Tech was the better team in the first period. They got the goals they needed, but I really liked our response in the second period. After that, it was anyone's game."

The Huskies got two power-play chances in the third, one when Joseph Cecconi was called for elbowing at 4:45, and another when Cooper Marody was called for hooking at 7:37.

But the Wolverines killed off both to hold onto the 3-2 lead.

"I thought it was basically three games in one tonight," Pearson said. "I thought the first period we got off to a good start, we wanted to get off to the good start. We never felt comfortable though. You never feel comfortable playing a team that can score like they do and with the forwards they have. Obviously the second period was their game. Then the third I thought was a good hockey game. I thought we came out and pushed the pace, drew a couple penalties. We just couldn't get the bounce or the break we needed."

Piazza scored an unassisted empty-net goal at 19:28 to ice the victory.

"I think we always have this calmness about us that even when we don't start well, we know we can come back," Compher said. "We've done it a couple of times this year. Obviously that's not the way we want to start the game but we just stayed calm."

For Racine, who made 27 saves and earned all-tournament honors, it reminded him of last year.

"It feels great," Racine said. "I think coming into last year, I hadn't played a game in over a month as well. Just getting back in there, helping the team win. The GLI's always really fun for us. It's a hard tournament and the last two years, coming out with a victory, it really feels good."

Connor, a freshman forward from Shelby Township, Mich., won the MVP award for the tournament and has turned many heads with his play of late, even before the GLI.

"Kyle Connor, he came into Michigan with high expectations," Berenson said. "He was a first-round draft pick by Winnipeg this summer. I think everyone thought he'd be an impact player and that's hard to deliver when you're a young kid but he has delivered that."

Pearson kiddingly tried to find a way to get Connor out of the title game.

"I was joking with one of their executives, I told him I'd give him money to sign him before the game tonight. He didn't take me up on that," Pearson said. "Tremendous hockey player. He's got speed, smarts, hockey sense, skill level. There's a reason why he was a first-round draft pick. He plays with a high tempo, too. Very good player."

For Motte, it was a special victory as he missed last year's tournament and an opportunity to play against his brother, a goaltender with Ferris State, to play in the world juniors.

Motte was already thinking of the big picture.

"It's huge, not only for our team standings-wise and for our confidence coming out of the break, but I think moving forward, the young guys got a little experience coming back here obviously for the next three years," Motte said. "Then for our team moving forward, confidence is a huge thing and hopefully we can get this momentum moving towards the second half."

Rounding out the All-GLI team were Piazza, Michigan Tech's Baltus and Auk and Northern Michigan's Dominik Shine.

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