MAC Hockey Round-Up: Western Michigan Wins Great Lakes Invitational

Western Michigan captured their 2nd ever GLI Championship, downing Michigan and Michigan Tech in exciting OT games - WMU Media File

With Winter Break wrapping up, we take a look around the MAC, starting with the biggest news, as Western Michigan stunned the field to win the first ever outdoors Great Lakes Invitational.

After last year's Great Lakes Invitational was moved back indoors, you could tell the teams lost some of their competitive edge.  The rare occasion to play outside was gone and the 2nd largest in-season hockey tournament was back home to Joe Louis Arena.  Michigan Tech possibly used the dampened mood to power their way to the championship, with Pheonix Copley having a solid pair of games in net.

This year, the championship teams from 2012 switched first round opponents as Michigan Tech took on a weakened Michigan State team while Western Michigan, the runners-up from last season, got the unfortunate draw against the #3 ranked Michigan Wolverines.  However, the second day saw a repeat of last year's games, as both games went into overtime.

In the first game, the Huskies peppered Spartan goaltender Jake Hildebrand, but needed a tying goal in the middle of the 3rd period to force OT.  From there, both teams failed to score, and Michigan State again found themselves in a shoot-out for the chance to go to the GLI Championship.  However, they fell, again, in extra rounds as Ryan Furne netted the winning goal in the 5th round of the shoot-out.

Meanwhile, Western Michigan skated hard with the talented Wolverines, and found themselves up 2-1 after the 2nd period, despite giving up a short-handed goal to JT Compher, who was the last man cut from the U.S. National Junior Team.  However, Michigan would tie the game in the 3rd and send it to overtime.  After drawing a penalty, the Broncos were running out of time and appeared to be headed to a shoot-out, where they are 0-for-4 on the season in wins.  However, Josh Pitt came through with this (video courtesy of dearandbear)......


Saucy right?

Michigan would then proceed to not even show up the next day, losing 3-0 to Michigan State while Western Michigan and Michigan Tech would again play for the GLI Championship.  Both Copley and WMU goalie Lukas Hafner matched each other shot-for-shot, and held the respective offenses off the board.  However, Justin Kovacs would not be denied, and his overtime goal 2 minutes into the period would hand the Championship to the Broncos.

Hafner, the MVP of the Tournament, now is close to leading the nation in goals-against average and would be 4th in save percentage, if he had more minutes.

Minutemen Struggles Continue

UMass continued to struggle this season, going 0-1-1 in the UConn Hockey Classic then proceeded to drop another non-conference match-up against conference foe Northeastern.  It's not all bad, since they hung well with very good teams in Quinnipiac and Northeastern, holding leads in both games and tying the Bobcats even.  However, the loss to UConn stings, as the Huskies are regarded as a very beatable opponent.  The Minutemen lost their shootout against the defending national runners-up in just 2 rounds 2-0.

Falcons Shake Tough Draw, Win Big Over Break

BGSU didn't get the draw they wanted for the Three Rivers Classic, drawing perrenial powerhouse Boston College in the first round rather than weaker teams in Robert Morris or Penn State.  The Eagles dominated the Falcons by a score of 5-0 (and would beat Penn State the next night by a score of 8-2, which is funny because PSU led 1-0 most of the 1st period before giving up 8 straight goals).  However, BG turned that around and won the 3rd place game, holding off a furious late attack in a 3-2 victory.

The Falcons then turned around and swept bottom-feeder Alabama-Huntsville by scores of 7-0 and 4-1 just a month after falling to the Chargers for their first (and still only) victory of the season.  The 3 game win streak ties their longest on the season and now sit alone in 3rd place in the WCHA, but have 2 fewer games than the 2nd, 4th, and 5th place teams, and 4 fewer than leader Ferris State (who no one is going to catch barring a collapse by the Bulldogs).

Miami Opens Presents, Drinks Hot Cocoa

OK, so the RedHawks were off.  Well mostly.  They stayed fresh hosting the US Under-18 National Team on New Years' Eve, falling to the youngins' 4-2.  Not a bad team to face, as these players could go pro or first round versus the lines that any college team can put together.


This coming week, Western Michigan will host Miami in a pair of games at Lawson Ice Arena.  This will be both a re-match of former CCHA foes, and the two teams' first meetings against each other in the new NCHC.  Bowling Green returns home for 3 home series over the next 5 weeks.  They open against Alaska-Fairbanks, who sit just ahead of Alabama-Huntsville in the WCHA standings, this weekend.  UMass heads to Cornell for a non-conference game Friday before hosing the US U-18 Team Sunday.  They then close their non-conference slate against lowly American International next Tuesday.

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