Great Lakes Invitational Preview-Type Substance and Game Thread

What with the holidays and all, real life has been a bit busy. With that and data for hockey being rather sparse compared to the vast treasure troves we have for football or basketball, this is going to be a very short preview.

What is it? An annual four-team holiday invitational tournament co-hosted by Michigan State, Michigan, and Michigan Tech. The fourth team is different every year; this year it is Boston College.

When is it? 14th-ranked Michigan State faces off against Michigan Tech in the first semifinal (4:00 ET today); Michigan and Boston College play afterward (at approximately 7:30 ET, assuming the first semifinal doesn't go deep into overtime). The losers will play in the third-place game at 4:00 ET tomorrow, the winners in the title game at 7:30 ET. The title game will be on Fox College Sports Atlantic; other games will not be televised.

Who are these other teams? You know Michigan (ranked #20) well enough; we played them only three weeks ago. Of note, though: due to the 2012 World Juniors hockey tournament, Michigan will be without forward Jon Merrill. (Edit: commenter sullivti points out that Merrill hasn't played all year due to a suspension for "violation of team rules", so this isn't really a change from the last time we played.)

Michigan Tech is usually a doormat; two years ago we beat them 10-1 in the GLI opener. This year's team is no pushover, however, at 6-7-1 in the WCHA (which, most years, is to college hockey what the SEC claims to be to college football) and .500 overall, including a split at #2 Minnesota and a win and tie against #15 Denver. They are still, however, the least formidable of the four teams present on paper; they score just 2.84 goals per game to our 3.44 and Michigan's 3.55 and allow 2.89 to our 2.67 and Michigan's 2.65. Their scoring is remarkably balanced; Milos Gordic leads the way with just 7 goals (four on the power play), but three others have 6 and two have 5.

Boston College, on the other hand, comes in ranked #3 and leads Hockey East at 9-4-0 in conference, 12-6-0 overall. They are scoring 3.61 goals per game and allowing just 2.50. BC defeated us 5-2 in the season opener at the Icebreaker Tournament and are making their first appearance in the GLI since winning it in 2003. Like Michigan, however, they are missing a forward who is playing for Team USA at World Juniors (Bill Arnold). Arnold is their second-leading scorer, but they still pack plenty of punch up front: Chris Kreider has 12 goals (tied for 8th nationally) and Barry Almeida has 10.

My bold (and probably wrong) predictions for the tournament: Tech gives us a scare for a bit before we put them away, 4-2. Boston College wins handily in the other semifinal, 5-2. Michigan then wipes the floor with Tech in the third-place game, 5-1. With Arnold away, we're able to keep it more competitive against BC but fall 3-2 in the title game.

On a completely unrelated note: I plan to get the first set of basketball Bradley-Terry ratings up within the next day or two (have to make a few minor tweaks to the script to get the home/road data from Ken Pomeroy's database); next year should be quicker.

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