Weekend work-up, Jan. 2, 2012: Three, two, one …

… Happy Second Half! I’m not sure how much the play of CCHA teams in holiday tournaments and other nonconference play taught us about the hockey yet to come, but it was an interesting few days. Here are three things that stay with me from the most recent games.
The Great Lakes Invitational is a great tournament. Okay, so this sounds ridiculous coming from someone who’s covered it for years, but I’ve never much liked the GLI — partly because of the monotony of familiarity with three perennial participants and partly because the attendance can be so spotty, affecting the atmosphere in Joe Louis Arena. This year, though, with an improved Michigan Tech, very different Spartans and Wolverines from years past and the addition of Boston College, the field was riveting. Attendance — which topped 15,000 the first day and 17,000 the second — was so good that the only game that lacked a large and enthusiastic audience was the third-place game between BC and MTU. Every game was good, the officiating was good, the crowds were enthusiastic and the outcome was in question from the moment the Eagles lost to Michigan. I’ve heard mixed rumors about whether or not this tournament will endure after the realignment becomes reality in 2013-14, but I hope that it continues.
Overrated? Underrated? Who knows? The CCHA went 6-6 against nonconference opponents, and three ranked teams — No. 8 Western Michigan, No. 11 Ferris State, No. 16 Lake Superior — lost to unranked foes from other conferences. WMU needed overtime to get by St. Cloud State in the second game of their series after dropping the first. FSU was swept, losing to RIT and Vermont. LSSU beat Vermont and lost to RIT in the title game of the Catamount Cup. But two CCHA teams — Michigan and Notre Dame — beat sound Hockey East opponents, Ohio State beat Robert Morris and Northern Michigan beat the talented Russian Red Stars in exhibition. What does this all mean? We’ve been talking about parity within the CCHA all season, but the reality is that it’s everywhere in college hockey this year. Look at Air Force over Colorado College, Harvard and North Dakota tying, Quinnipiac and Nebraska-Omaha tying.
Midseason heroes. There’s something about the holiday games — especially tournament games — that shines a spotlight on lesser-known players. Look at Notre Dame freshman Garrett Peterson, whose second career goal was the first go-ahead goal against Boston University; ND sophomore Jeff Costello also had his second of the year, the game winner, and freshman Peter Schneider helped set up both of them with his third and fourth assists of the year. Ferris State sophomore Justin DeMartino notched his first career goal in FSU’s 4-2 loss to Vermont. Ohio State sophomore defenseman Curtis Gedig netted his second career goal in OSU’s 4-2 win over Robert Morris. Even better-known players sometimes elevate their games for big events. How else can you explain Michigan junior forward A.J. Treais, who had both game-winning goals for the Wolverines in last year’s GLI tournament and the game winner against BC this year? Then there’s Michigan State senior goaltender Drew Palmisano, whose 90 saves in two games is a new GLI record, one more save than what Colgate goaltender Geoff McMullen recorded in 1969. His teammate, freshman Tanner Sorensen, scored his first collegiate goal in the title game loss to Michigan.