Who: Michigan (9-9), No. 13 Michigan State (12-6-2), Michigan Tech (3-14), Rensselaer (9-9-1)
When: Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Wednesday, Dec. 30
Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
Tickets: Click here (new window)
Tuesday’s schedule: Michigan Tech vs. Michigan State, 4 p.m. Eastern; Michigan vs. Rensselaer, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday’s schedule: Semifinal losers, 4 p.m. Eastern; semifinal winners, 7:30 p.m.
Every Wolverine fan wants to know which Michigan team will show for the Great Lakes Invitational. Will it be the team that lost five in a row from early November through Thanksgiving? Will it be the team that’s been 5-2-0 ever since?
Through the first part of the season, the Wolverines found themselves in very unfamiliar territory. After losing to Ohio State Dec. 4, UM spent a night in the CCHA basement, and Michigan finished the first half in 10th place.
Two issues that contributed to UM’s first-half woes have improved in more recent games; Bryan Hogan (2.23 goals-against average, .905 save percentage) seems to have settled down in net, and the offense in front of him is finally lending a hand. During that five-game losing streak, UM scored six goals. In seven games since, the Wolverines have scored 22. Carl Hagelin (9-7–16) has emerged as Michigan’s leading scorer and last year’s GLI MVP, Louie Caporusso (5-9–14) — who is well off his 24-goal pace of a year ago — has simply emerged.
About Michigan State
No one questions which Michigan State team will play in Joe Louis Arena. Everyone knows that a young and eager team will come to play. Whether that translates into a successful tourney is the question on everyone’s mind and one of the things that makes this year’s GLI so interesting.
The Spartans finished the 2008-09 season tied for 10th place in the CCHA but are currently in second place, just five points behind Miami. While MSU struggled in late November with a loss and tie against Notre Dame and two losses in the College Hockey Showcase, the Spartans were 3-1-0 in November, increasing their scoring by a goal a game as the month progressed.
While the MSU offense is led offensively by Corey Tropp (16-11–27), who has more goals than anyone in the country, the Spartans really do score by committee; freshmen Derek Grant (7-12–9) and Chris Forfar (4-1–5) are welcome additions to this group. Drew Palmisano (2.03 GAA, .927 SV%) is among the top 10 goaltenders in the nation, and MSU’s defense is eighth in the country.
About Michigan Tech
Michigan Tech has struggled this season, partly due to some early injuries and partly due to youth. The Huskies have mustered only three wins and are winless since Nov. 13. Still, it’s not for lack of effort — their last three losses have been by only one goal.
Tech also has had some offensive bright spots in sophomore Brett Olson and senior Malcolm Gwilliam, who came back this season from a medical redshirt. Freshman defenseman Steven Seigo has also been a pleasant surprise on both ends of the ice. The Huskies’ young goaltending is also faring fairly well, with time split between sophomore Josh Robinson and freshman Kevin Genoe.
The Engineers’ season to date can best be described as so close, yet so far.
The ‘Tute (for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) has taken coach Seth Appert’s designs to heart better than any of his previous classes, playing exciting, energetic and enthusiastic hockey at both ends of the ice. Junior Chase Polacek (12 goals, 26 points) and newcomers Brendan Pirri (18 points) and Jerry D’Amigo (14 points; currently playing at the World Junior Championship) are positively electric, but letdowns at critical junctures have hit RPI hard in the standings. High hopes borne of a 7-3-1 start have dissolved in the acridity of a 2-6-0 slide as both ends of the ice have come up wanting.
Second-year goalie Allen York has had his moments, but he’s also had his “moments;” he hasn’t exactly picked up where the stalwart Mathias Lange left off last year. York’s 2.93 goals-against average is tolerable, but his .895 save percentage is not going to cut it in the eyes of Appert.
The RPI power play is a respectable 20 percent unit, but the penalty-killing corps (not quite 77 percent efficacy) has got to step it up. Overall, the Engineers are fleet of foot and big of heart, but short of wins … and that’s not by accident.