In a game where very little room was given by either team, Western Michigan got the only goal that counted when Colt Conrad scored at 11:55 in overtime to lift the Broncos over Michigan Tech, 1-0, for their second Great Lakes Invitational championship in four years and the last ever to be captured in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
“I thought it was a tremendous game,” said WMU coach Andy Murray. “Nobody else is going to win the last game here in the GLI at the Joe, which Western Michigan did, so we’re real proud of our players.”
The game really came down to power plays: Michigan Tech’s inability to capitalize on very good power-play chances and the momentum bounce that Western Michigan took from killing off seven penalties, including nearly two minutes of a five-on-three Huskies advantage to end the second period and what should have been a full five minutes of man advantage in overtime.
“I think our power play let us down a little bit tonight,” said MTU coach Mel Pearson. “From the five-on-three situation, we haven’t practiced that in probably a month and a half just because of our schedule … and we just looked really stagnant on that power play. We didn’t move the puck with any purpose. We were really out of sorts. Part of that was because of them. I thought that was a real key in the game.”
The Huskies had limited opportunities on the two-man advantage at the end of the second because of Western Michigan’s excellent penalty killing. At 17:55, the Broncos took a penalty for too many men and three minutes later, Bronco Neal Goff was called for hooking. The Huskies took their timeout to discuss strategy, but couldn’t solve WMU goaltender Ben Blacker in the time they had. On that PK, Luke Bafia, Scott Moldenhau and Aaron Hadley were a particularly strong unit for the Broncos.
“In goal on a five-on-three, you’ve got a lot of things going through your head, but the guys had a lot of communication on the ice and we knew what to do from practice,” said Blacker. “So we just stuck to it, stuck to the basics. We worked really hard and we had a lot of guys eating pucks, making sacrifices to kill off that penalty.”
At 6:06 in overtime, WMU’s Taylor Fleming was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct when he hit Thomas Beretta near the boards. After three minutes of that advantage, though, Michigan Tech’s Matt Roy was called for tripping, leaving the Huskies with a 40-second advantage after their penalty was killed. It was the Broncos, though, who grabbed the momentum after their successful kill. Their seventh shot in overtime less than two minutes later won the game.
On the game-winning goal, Cam Lee sent the puck behind the net, Wade Allison fed Conrad in front, and Conrad picked up his own rebound to score.
“I just saw an opening in front of the net and Wade had it behind the net,” said Conrad. “I called for it, hoping he would find me. It was a great pass. I kind of had the whole net. Hit the post on the first one but stuck with it.
“It means everything. It feels good, just for the team. We’ve worked hard this season and I feel like we’re finally getting what we deserve.”
Conrad and Blacker, who made 23 saves in the contest, were named to the all-tournament team, along with fellow Broncos Matheson Iacope and Corey Schuenem. Michigan Tech defenseman Cliff Watson and Michigan forward Tony Calderone also received honors.
For the weekend, Michigan Tech goaltender Angus Redmond allowed just one goal. He made 24 saves in the title game, six of them in overtime.
Michigan Tech (13-8-3, 11-3-2 WCHA) travels to Notre Dame Jan. 6-7 and the Huskies return to conference play Jan. 13-14 when they host Alaska-Anchorage. The Broncos (9-5-3, 4-5-1 NCHC) don’t play again until Jan. 13-14, when they host Denver.
Michigan 5, Michigan State 4 (OT)
With 2:02 left remaining in overtime, Tony Calderone scored to give Michigan a 5-4 win over Michigan State in the consolation game of the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
The game-winning play began with Michigan State’s Carson Gatt upending Michigan’s Dexter Dancs in the crease as Dancs was driving with the puck. The puck came back to Calderone, who was following Dancs into the play. Spartan Rhett Holland pushed Calderone into the goal, but Calderone pushed the puck past Michigan State netminder John Lethemon to win the game. The goal was reviewed but stood.
“Dexter made a great play walking to the net and the rebound squirted out,” said Calderone. “It wasn’t pretty, but I was able to get it through.”
Michigan State had rallied from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game with three goals in the third period.
Goalie: Ben Blacker, Western Michigan
Defense: Corey Schuenen, Western Michigan
Defense: Cliff Watson, Michigan Tech
Forward: Matheson Iacope, Western Michigan
Forward: Colt Conrad, Western Michigan
Forward: Tony Calderone, Michigan