Michigan Downs Spartans to Win GLI Crown

Another split for MSU, but this one hurts even more. The Michigan Wolverines beat the Spartans 2-1 to clinch the 2014 Great Lakes Invitational tournament championship.

In what was the 300th meeting between the two clubs (the most among any rivals in college hockey) Michigan won the first two periods, while MSU won the third, but could only put one behind Michigan goaltender Steve Racine.

Right from the get-go Michigan seemed to be a little faster than MSU and played nearly the entire period in the Spartan end. Halfway through the frame a center ice pinch by John Draeger led to a UM 2 on 1 with Andrew Copp finding the back of the net after a shot deflected off of Jake Hildebrand’s shoulder. The Spartans had a few chances on Racine later on, but could not get any sustained offensive pressure.

In the second period MSU came out physical and flying. They got several quality chances on net but Racine (who stopped 40 Michigan Tech shots the night before) held firm. Michigan however would capitalize at the 12:14 mark of the second after Zach Hyman took a point pass from Michael Downing on his backhand and patiently roofed it over the shoulder of Hildebrand in front. Hyman’s NHL style play made it 2-0 UM. MSU had a powerplay late in the period but had very little to show for it.

As the third period rolled around both the Spartans and Wolverines came out desperate for the next goal. The Spartans finally found the back of the net after Rhett Holland fired a wrist shot from the point that found its way past several Wolverines and over the blocker of Racine. Holland’s first of his career gave the Spartans new life and made it a 2-1 game with 15 minutes left to play.

Both the Spartans and Wolverines traded chances with Hildebrand having to make some big stops the keep his team in it. The best chance for MSU to tie the game came on a penalty kill midway through the third. Joe Cox blocked a point shot and got into a foot race for a loose puck. Cox ended up having a breakaway from the UM blueline and made a quick move but was denied by Racine’s right pad. Michigan rebounded and held on to win the game and the championship.

The GLI hasn’t been kind to Tom Anastos and the Spartans when it comes to playing Michigan. MSU has lost three of the last four GLI games against UM, including one in 2011 when MSU lost in the GLI finals to Michigan in overtime. Talk about deja vu! After 300 games Michigan now leads the overall series 153–128–19, the Spartans are 4-11-1 in their last 16 games against the Wolverines. MSU is now 7-10-1 on the season with the bulk of the Big Ten schedule dead ahead.

Jason Ruff is the host of Behind the Mask and a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports

Photo Credit: Impact Sports