DETROIT — Wolverines’ goalie Billy Sauer and Huskies’ goalie Rob Nolan strung together a combined 165 minutes of shutout hockey in a classic Great Lakes Invitational tournament final that went to two overtimes before Wolverines’ forward Travis Turnbull scored the game winner at 2:32 of the second overtime period at Joe Louis Arena Saturday night.
The 1-0 victory in the 43rd annual edition of the Detroit holiday tourney gave the Wolverines their first GLI title since 1996. Host Michigan Tech was bidding for their first championship in the tournament since 1980.
Scooter Vaughan’s shot from the right point found Turnbull in front of the net and the Wolverines’ junior deflected the puck high over Nolan to end the long night of outstanding goaltending.
Sauer stopped 37 Michigan Tech shots and Nolan turned back 45 Wolverines’ shots in a contest dominated by the two netminders.
For Sauer, the game was his second shutout in two nights. The Michigan junior goaltender blanked Providence in the tourney opener on Friday night, 6-0
“It may not be the toughest game I’ve played in, but it may be the most important,” said Sauer. “Every save was crucial. You make one mistake and your team is going home. Tonight was so emotional because it was such a long game. I didn’t think it was ever going to end.”
The shutout was only the second in tournament finals history, the other coming in 1984 when Michigan State shut out Michigan Tech, 7-0. The last time the GLI final went to extra time came in Michigan State’s 2004 2-1 win over the Wolverines.
“When you get goaltending like Billy gave us, it just makes our team that much better,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “He was huge on big saves. I thought he battled hard But to come out of here with two shutouts, what can you say. That’s a terrific effort on Billy’s part.”
“Obviously, it feels good for Michigan to see that banner go up with its [Michigan's] name on it,” continued Berenson. “It’s been a long time coming. I know how disappointed Michigan Tech is. They played a great game. Our kids battled hard all game. You’d think there would be a breakdown from fatigue. I’m proud of our team and I’m proud we got back on the board here at the GLI.”
The first overtime featured several near misses for each team. The period’s best chance came off the stick of Kevin Porter with 48 seconds left in the period. The Wolverines’ captain fired a bullet from 20 feet in front of Nolan, but Nolan blocked the shot with his shoulder and caught the resulting rebound easily.
The period’s oddest scoring opportunity came on a break in by Tim Miller, who was tripped as he headed for the net. Both the puck and Miller shoved their way into the net along with Nolan, but referee Matt Shegos waved off the goal. His decision was confirmed by TV replay.
The game’s battle lines were established early despite scoreless first period. Michigan used their skating prowess to create scoring chances and Michigan Tech forechecked tenaciously, hoping to bottle up the Wolverines.
Michigan’s Chad Kolarik was stymied by Nolan on a partial breakaway at 7:30 of the opening period. The Huskies’ best opportunity in the opening frame came on a Jordan Baker shot that bounced of the outside of the net inches from the open corner.
The second period featured a significant amount of power play minutes, yet neither team was able to capitalize on their opportunities. Michigan Tech’s slight 22-19 shot advantage over the initial two periods was indicative of the tightness of the contest.
Both teams had golden scoring chances to end the game in regulation time.
Early in the third period, Huskies’ forward Tyler Shelast took a blue line to blue line pass and skated in alone on Sauer, who robbed him with a quick glove.
Kolarik skated through a maze of Huskies’ defenders mid-period, but couldn’t solve Nolan.
In the final minute of regulation time, with Michigan on a power play, Wolverines’ forward Tim Miller took a pass in front of Nolan, slipped the puck to his backhand, but couldn’t get the resulting shot on net.
The all-tournament team consisted of Huskies’ Shelast and defenseman Geoff Kindrade, and Wolverines Sauer, defenseman Mark Mitera, Turnbull and Porter. Sauer won the tournament most valuable player award.
Michigan (18-2-0, 11-1-0 CCHA) gets twelve days off before meeting Western Michigan in a home-and-home CCHA matchup. Michigan Tech (7-9-2, 5-6-1 WCHA) travels to Mercyhurst for a pair of non-conference games next weekend.