DETROIT — The Great Lakes Invitational has compiled a fair amount of recognition in its 39 years, building the reputation of a tournament that players watch and yearn to play in.
But for some, the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, taking place in Finland this year, presents an even better opportunity. Seven players from three teams will be competing in the World Junior Championship, and are therefore absent from the GLI.
Boston College will be skating without sophomore forward Patrick Eaves, brother to senior forward and team captain Ben. The younger Eaves would give the Eagles one more offensive weapon in their attempt to be the third team in as many years to take the trophy out of the state of Michigan.
His absence, while noticeable, should not pose too much of a roadblock for such an offensively-loaded team as the Eagles, with the elder Eaves, Tony Voce, and Ryan Shannon leading the offensive charge.
The Wolverines are without three players, including star goaltender Alvaro Montoya and dangerous forward Jeff Tambellini.
Sophomore Montoya has given Michigan chances in several games it wouldn’t have been in with a lesser goaltender in net — the recent game against bitter rival Michigan State, for example. In the first game of that series between the Spartans and the Wolverines, the game was scoreless until the last minute and a half of the third period, in which Montoya was forced to make several excellent saves to keep his squad in the game.
Sophomore Tambellini will be missed on a team hard-up for offensive output and struggling as much as the Wolverines have. The third member of the Wolverines making the trip to Finland is freshman defenseman Matt Hunwick, a last-minute addition.
The Spartans, meanwhile, are also being represented by three players in the WJC. Freshman goaltender Dominic Vicari will be the most noticeable absence, as his improvement between the pipes over the course of the first half of the season led to his becoming coach Rick Comley’s go-to goaltender in pressure situations.
Junior goaltender Matt Migliaccio is up to the task of filling in the shoes of the recently-hot Vicari if he can overcome his lack of success at Joe Louis Arena — Migliaccio has struggled at the Joe recently.
Sophomore starting defenseman Corey Potter will be missed almost as much as Vicari, because the Spartans are young and vulnerable on the blueline. Sophomore forward David Booth will be absent from the Spartan forwards, but due to a knee injury early in the season, Booth has been out of the lineup for the majority of the first half, so his absence is something the Spartans have dealt with, even while yearning for his offensive skills.
With all the absences, there is plenty of room in the lineups of these three teams for lower-profile players to make names for themselves, and what better place to do so than in a high-profile tournament like the GLI?