In tournaments offering the level of competition of the GLI — with three of the five winningest coaches in Division I hockey at the helms of national powerhouses Michigan (Red Berenson), Michigan State (Rick Comley) and Boston College (Jerry York) — there are fewer chances for the usual offensive heroes to score.
That often leaves the door open for the players who don’t often find themselves in the spotlight to grab the limelight.
With Boston College junior starting goaltender Matti Kaltiainen suspended for violating team rules, the Eagles found themselves depending on freshman Joe Pearce to backstop them to the GLI championship.
Pearce stopped 34 Wolverine shots to give his team the victory in the first semifinal of the weekend, then stopped 15 shots in the title game to give his Eagle teammates the edge in the championship game and the eventual tournament victory. His performance in the second and third starts of his career earned him the MVP of the tournament.
Sophomore Michigan goaltender Noah Ruden also received a chance to shine, due to Wolverine starting goalie, also a sophomore, taking part in the World Junior Championship in Finland, but his outstanding play was overshadowed by Pearce’s success.
Of course, no matter how great a team’s goaltender is, if the offense in front of him doesn’t score, then all the team has achieved is a tie. There were several players unaccustomed to being the hero(es) that made their impact in the tournament as well.
Kevin Estrada, junior forward for Michigan State, had his best career game on Saturday against the Michigan Tech Huskies, with three points (one goal, two assists) in the Spartans’ 7-2 victory to assure them a place in the championship game.
Michigan Tech junior forward John Hartman scored his first career goal against Michigan State in the same game Saturday as part of a Husky comeback that had the Spartans scrambling in the second before putting the game away in the third.
Of course, the defensemen weren’t going to be left out. Boston College junior defenseman scored his third goal of the season against the Wolverines Saturday afternoon.
Spartan rookie blueliner Chris Snavely scored his second career goal against Tech on Saturday, then added his third Sunday against the Eagles.
Most notable, however, was junior defenseman Eric Werner’s hat trick on Sunday against the Huskies — his first career hat trick and an offensive performance that doubled his goal total for the season.
It is players like these that make teams like the Eagles, Wolverines and Spartans successful — those that can answer the call when no one else can.