One of the great college hockey traditions is renewed over the next two days in Grand Rapids, as 4 of college hockey’s best programs face off in the Great Lakes Invitational. In their opening matchup, the Spartans take on Ferris State on Thursday evening.
Game Times: Game 1 vs Ferris State - Thursday December 28th at 7:00 PM EST, Game 2 vs Michigan Tech/Alaska - Friday December 29th at 3:30 PM EST or 7:00 PM EST
Watch the game: WILX - NBC 10 in Lansing, or streaming on FloHockey
Comment and follow live in the comments
The GLI is one of the premier annual events on the college hockey calendar, the midwestern answer to Boston’s Beanpot, and MSU has been a staple of the tournament since 1979. Looking for their first GLI title since 2009, the Spartans will take on Ferris State in their opener on Thursday night.
MSU ended the pre-holiday break portion of their schedule with plenty of momentum, completing a sweep of Notre Dame at Munn Ice Arena on December 8th and 9th, outscoring the Irish 5-2 and 2-1 respectively. Prior to that series against the Irish, the Spartans were 5-1-2 in the month of November, scoring wins against usual Big Ten contenders Penn State, Ohio State, and the then #1 team in the nation Wisconsin.
After the long layoff, MSU has several players competing in the World Junior Championships for their home countries. Goaltender Trey Augustine and Isaac Howard are suiting up for Team USA, while Tommi Männistö is playing for Finland, and Maxim Štrbák is representing his native Slovakia. Their absences will be notable, especially Augustine’s presence in net. His backup, Luca Di Pasquo, will be making his second and third starts between the pipes this season, after vanquishing Canisius in his debut.
MSU’s potent offense looks to stay hot against a struggling Ferris State team. The Spartans are second in the country and lead the Big Ten in goals scored with 76 on the season. They lead the Big Ten in shorthanded goals with 5.
The Bulldogs, often a power in college hockey, are sputtering this season. MSU grad Bob Daniels is in his 32nd year at the helm in Big Rapids, and his Bulldogs are limping through the CCHA season at 5-11-1 overall. Their scoring leader is Antonio Venuto, a junior forward from Whitmore Lake. In net, the Bulldogs clear leader is Logan Stein. Stein is a senior originally from Georgia, but who played in high school for Rochester Adams High School in Metro Detroit. Stein has given up 30 goals on the season, while making 342 saves.
Potential Friday Opponents
Michigan Tech is a GLI stalwart, hosting the tournament from its earliest days. The Huskies are making the trip from Houghton amidst a middling 23/24 campaign, where they currently sit at 8-8-3 on the season. In their last ten games, Michigan Tech is 6-4. If they face the Spartans on Friday, MSU will find a comparable team in terms of defense, as the Huskies are #32 in the nation in terms of scoring defense.
Tech is less top-heavy than their conference foes from Big Rapids, as they have several scorers within a goal or so of each other. Isaac Gordon leads the team in scoring. The freshman from Manitoba has tallied 10 goals and 7 assists. Just behind Gordon is Ryland Mosley, the senior forward from Arnprior Ontario. Mosley’s scored 9 goals, 7 assists, and has fired 73 shots. In net, Blake Pietila is the clear leader. He was CCHA player of the year last season, and was in the top 10 in Hobey Baker Award voting.
The Nanooks make the long trek from Fairbanks to Grand Rapids to vie for the GLI title for the first time in their history. MSU’s former CCHA foe is 9-6-1 on the season, and looks to use the GLI as a launching point for the rest of their season in the new year. Erik Largens’ squad is led by Harrison Israels, who has scored 12 goals on the season, including 2 against Michigan Tech in their first matchup in October. The Huskies and Nanooks face off Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the GLI.
MSU will be inconvenienced this week by their 4 players in the World Junior tournament, but there’s enough production that will be on the ice that it shouldn’t hurt much. Ferris is in the middle of a tough season, and I don’t see that changing against the Spartans on Thursday night. Alaska and Michigan Tech should play a more competitive game in the matinee, but it feels like the Huskies are in a better position to take a spot in the championship game Friday.
Assuming it’s a Michigan Tech-Michigan State championship game on Friday night, it’s hard to not like the Spartans. They’ve shown that there is plenty of skill on the green and white side of things, and even without Trey Augustine in net, Luca Di Pasquo has been perfectly adequate in his place so far.
2023 is an excellent opportunity for the Spartans to take GLI championship #13 home, and to raise a trophy in Van Andel Arena. Let’s see what happens.