Happy New Year, everyone! There are two holiday tournaments to pick this week, but first a look at how Drew Claussen and I finished the first half.
Drew: 2-0 (1.000)
Paula: 1-1 (.500)
Drew: 45-29-4 (.603)
Paula: 29-44-5 (.404)
Yes, there was coal in my stocking on Christmas morning. Drew got the pony I’ve been asking for since I was five. Again.
The Great Lakes Invitational
Just like everyone predicted before the season started, Michigan Tech will roll into the 50th Great Lakes Invitational as the favorite. With four in-state teams going at it, this is one of the more interesting holiday tournaments.
The games will return to Joe Louis Arena this year, which will take away all the fluke elements that go along with an outdoor game, which I’ve never been a huge fan of. I’ve been to two collegiate ones but would not have gone if I couldn’t have gotten a press pass. Bad sight lines, cold and diminished quality of play. I’ll end this mini-rant before I somehow transition into my hatred of shootouts.
The bracket is set up with the potential for an all-Big Ten, all-WCHA or B1G vs. WCHA championship game. Between Michigan and Michigan State, I believe the Wolverines have a better chance finding success in Detroit, but taking down the Huskies on the way to the championship game will be a tall order. I was leaning towards picking Ferris State to win in its first year at the tournament, but will go with the safer bet in Michigan Tech.
It’s a great field this year and I am (of course) digging the heavy former-CCHA vibe with the improved Huskies making it that much more exciting.
The first semifinal game features Michigan versus Michigan Tech. The Wolverines ended the first half with a 5-1 road loss to Boston College (Dec. 13), a game that snapped a four-game win streak. Tech’s first half closed with a home split against Minnesota Duluth, losing 3-1 Dec. 12 and winning 4-3 the following night. Michigan Tech swept Michigan in Houghton Oct. 31-Nov. 1, outscoring the Wolverines 10-3 in the process. This game is the 34th GLI meeting between the two teams, with Michigan holding a 22-11-0 record in those matches. The Wolverines are 53-34-1 all-time in the GLI and have 15 tournament titles, more than any other team. They will be without four key players for this tournament, though. Defenseman Zach Werenski and forwards JT Compher, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Motte are playing for Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship.
The second semifinal game has Ferris State playing Michigan State. The Bulldogs ended their first half with a two-game home sweep of Lake Superior State (Dec. 12-13), winning 5-2 and 5-0. Michigan State beat visiting Clarkson, 6-4, Dec. 14, their first win in three games. The Bulldogs and Spartans split a series in East Lansing Oct. 31-Nov. 1, with Ferris State winning 1-0 the first night and Michigan State taking the rematch, 4-1. Michigan State is 69-36-15 all-time against Ferris State. Overall in GLI play, the Spartans are 47-30-3 with 12 titles to their credit.
The entire tournament is televised by Fox Sports Detroit Plus and Fox College Sports. Games are Sunday-Monday, at 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Drew’s picks: Michigan Tech over Michigan in the first semifinal, 4-2. Ferris State over Michigan State in the second semifinal, 3-1. Michigan over Michigan State, 5-1, in the third-placed game. Michigan Tech over Ferris State 3-1 for the championship.
Paula’s picks: I think this field is wide open. Michigan Tech has advanced to the title game the past two tournaments, losing to Western Michigan last year in Comerica Park and winning in 2012. Once again, I’m picking against the odds. Michigan 3-2 in the first semifinal. Michigan State 4-3 in the second semifinal. Tech over Ferris State (sorry Bulldogs) in the third-place game, 4-2. Spartans over Wolverines in the title game, 3-2. Yes, I know I’m setting myself up to go 0-for-4 in these picks, but after my first half, what do I have to lose?
The Three Rivers Classic
The third annual Three Rivers Classic will also be the third time Penn State has participated in the tournament. The Nittany Lions have experienced mixed results at the tournament, going 2-2 with victories against Ohio State in 2012 and Robert Morris in 2013 and blowout losses against the Colonials in 2012 and Boston College last season.
The Nittany Lions jumping into the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll for the first time in program history right before voting went on hiatus for the holiday break makes three ranked teams in this field, with No. 17 Colgate and No. 19 Robert Morris joining No. 20 Penn State. Unranked Western Michigan has already proven this season that it is not a team to sleep on when the Broncos won the Shillelagh Tournament in November by defeating Ohio State and blasting Union 8-2.
This is another great field, with under-the-radar teams and a short but interesting tournament history. The first semifinal is Western Michigan versus Colgate. The Broncos finished their first half with a four-game unbeaten streak, last playing Colorado College Dec. 12-13, a 3-2 overtime win followed by a 1-1 tie. Colgate heads into this tournament looking to break a three-game losing streak; the Raiders last played Dec. 9, a 4-3 loss to Providence.
The second semifinal has Robert Morris facing off against Penn State. The Colonials ended the first half with just their second loss of the season during a weekend split with Mercyhurst (Dec. 12-13); RMU won 7-4 before losing 3-0, the loss halting a five-game unbeaten streak. Penn State last played Dec. 5-6, beating Wisconsin 5-2 and 5-4 on the road to record the team’s first Big Ten sweep.
The series between the Colonials and Nittany Lions is tied at 2-2-0 all-time, with a 1-1-0 record at the Three Rivers Classic. Their last match was at last year’s tournament, a 3-2 PSU win.
This is a Monday-Tuesday tournament, with games at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the CONSOL Energy Center. The tournament will not be televised.
Drew’s picks: Colgate over Western Michigan 4-2 in the first semifinal. Penn State over Robert Morris 3-2 in the second semi-final. Western Michigan over Robert Morris, 4-1, in the third-place game. Colgate over Penn State 5-3 for the championship.
Paula’s picks: I have a sneaking suspicion that Robert Morris will win this whole thing, but that’s not how I’m calling it. Western over Colgate 3-2 in the first semifinal and Penn State over Robert Morris, 3-2, in the second semifinal. Robert Morris over Colgate, 4-2, in the third-place game. Penn State over Western Michigan for the title, 3-2.