Preview: Great Lakes Invitational

Great Lakes Invitational
Detroit, Thursday-Friday, Dec. 29-30, 2005

Game 1: Michigan State vs. Michigan Tech, 4:30 p.m. ET

Michigan State Spartans (7-7-5, 4-5-4 CCHA)
Head coach: Rick Comley
Leading scorers: So. F Bryan Lerg (8-15–23), Jr. F/D Tyler Howells (5-13–18), Jr. F Drew Miller (6-11–17)
Leading netminder: Jr. Dominic Vicari (6-5-2, 2.47, .901)

Michigan Tech Huskies (4-15-1, 3-10-1 WCHA)
Head coach: Jamie Russell
Leading scorers: Sr. F Chris Conner (12-8–20), Sr. F Brandon Schwartz (6-7–13), Jr. D Lars Helminen (1-10–11)
Leading netminders: Fr. Michael-Lee Teslak (4-7-0, 4.31, .885), Fr. Rob Nolan (0-8-1, 4.36, .865)

Game 2: No. 7 Colorado College vs. No. 6 Michigan, 8 p.m. ET

Colorado College Tigers (15-6-1, 9-4-1 WCHA)
Head coach: Scott Owens
Leading scorers: Sr. F Brett Sterling (19-15–34), Sr. F Marty Sertich (10-18–28), Jr. D Brian Salcido (3-20–23)
Leading netminder: Jr. Matt Zaba (13-5-1, 2.19, .913)

Michigan Wolverines (11-5-1, 7-3-1 CCHA)
Head coach: Red Berenson
Leading scorers: Jr. F T.J. Hensick (9-18–27), Fr. D Jack Johnson (5-16–21), So. F Kevin Porter (10-6–16)
Leading netminder: Fr. Billy Sauer (8-3-1, 2.87, .903)

Tournament outlook: The venerable GLI returns with Colorado College as this year’s fourth participant, joining Great Lakes perennials Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech. The Spartans open the tournament against the Huskies with both teams in need of a win. Michigan State, decimated by injuries, has seen a 5-1-1 start that included the Lefty McFadden Invitational title melt away, courtesy of an eight-game winless streak in November. Dare we say “PairWise Rankings” already? The Spartans cannot afford too many more losses and still keep NCAA tournament hopes. Note: MSU has played plenty of close games already, going 2-2-5 in contests decided by a goal or less. Tech, meanwhile, has struggled through the first half despite Chris Conner’s offensive spark. The Huskies’ freshman netminding duo of Michael-Lee Teslak and Rob Nolan has seen plenty of rubber — MTU’s opponents are averaging over 35 shots on goal per game.

Semifinal No. 2 pits two top-ten squads. Colorado College again has the dynamic duo of national scoring leader Brett Sterling and 2005 Hobey Baker winner Marty Sertich to throw at opponents, and plenty more where that came from for the nation’s No. 5 offense. And that’s not to mention the standout netminding of Matt Zaba, who has played the bulk of the Tigers’ minutes in net. The Tigers, though, need wins at the GLI for more than just prestige — CC faces Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota in its next three WCHA series after the New Year. Michigan, the Tigers’ first-round opponent, has gone about business as usual despite a bit of soul-searching in the wake of a four-game losing streak capped by a sweep at the hands of Miami. Rookie defenseman Jack Johnson has come as advertised; the blueliner sits behind only T.J. Hensick on the Wolverines’ scoring list. Johnson, though, cannot help Michigan at the GLI, as he is with the U.S. team at the World Juniors alongside teammate Kevin Porter. Freshman Billy Sauer has performed creditably in net as well.