By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – Michigan entered the 2015 Great Lakes Invitational as reigning champions and left Detroit the same way.
Jake Jackson and Brent Baltus scored for MTU to carry a 2-0 lead after the first period, but second-period goals by Tony Calderone, Tyler Motte and Alex Kile lifted Michigan to a comeback win. Sam Piazza added an empty-netter for the Wolverines. The win marked the second-straight GLI title for Michigan and its 17th all-time, the most of any school.
“Well, I’m not keeping score, but I can tell you it’s great to win,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. “Our team has a lot of guys that haven’t won this tournament, so it wasn’t like we had the same team. And going into this tournament, anyone that knows our team knows that we were really thin on defense. Arguably our two best defensemen were not here, Michael Downing and Zach Werenski, so we had a lot of guys pick up the slack. I thought our freshmen defensemen (Joseph) Cecconi and (Nick) Boka played pretty well and Cutler Martin and Sam Piazza – they’re sophomores so there’s a young defense and then Nolan De Jong is a junior and we played five D the whole weekend, never played with six D except we played Tyler Motte on defense a few shifts last night, so we were thin on D and our D did a great job.”
Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson – a former assistant coach to Berenson – said each period felt like its own individual game and that his team just couldn’t get the break it needed.
“It was basically three games in one tonight,” Pearson said. “I thought the first period we got off to a good start, we wanted to get off to a good start. We never felt comfortable, and we never feel comfortable playing a team that can score like they do. Obviously the second period was their game, and then the third period, I thought it was a good hockey game, we came out and pushed the pace, drew a couple penalties, just couldn’t get the bounce or the break we needed. Disappointed, feel bad for our players. They worked hard, we just couldn’t get that bounce or break. Congrats to Michigan, there’s a reason why they’re top 10 in the polls, they’re a real good hockey team.”
Shelby Township native Kyle Connor chipped in with an assist on Motte’s goal and was named tournament MVP after recording three points in the two-day tournament, including the game-winner against Northern Michigan.
Photos by Andrew Knapik/MiHockey
“Kyle Connor, he comes into Michigan with high expectations,” Berenson said. “He was a first-round draft (pick) by Winnipeg this summer and I think everyone thought he would be an impact player, and that’s hard to do when you’re a young kid, but he’s delivered that. I think there’s some people that think he should’ve been on the U.S. junior team, but definitely Kyle has made a statement here in recent weeks against Wisconsin, Minnesota and then this weekend, so good for him.”
After being named tournament MVP last year and making 35 saves in Tuesday’s win over Northern Michigan, senior Steve Racine was once again called upon for the Wolverines between the pipes. He stopped 25 of 27 shots he faced in the victory.
“I always like playing at The Joe,” Racine said. “It’s a really cool rink, and I think for me personally I like playing in big rinks in big venues and this was just another one of those.”
An incredible short-side snipe from Michigan Tech freshman Jake Jackson opened the scoring. Jackson broke down the left side and roofed a puck past Racine at 2:55 to record his first collegiate point in just his seventh game. Jackson did not suit up for the GLI semifinal against Michigan State.
Baltus tipped home a Mark Auk (St. Clair Shores) shot on the power play with 5:39 left in the period to put the Huskies up by a pair. The goal marked the second in as many games – and third point – for Baltus after the junior forward scored the overtime winner against Michigan State on Tuesday. The helper was also Auk’s third in the tournament.
Early in the second period, the Wolverines would get a much-needed goal to pull to within one. Calderone (Trenton) took a quick touch pass from Brendan Warren (Carleton) at the top of the right circle before firing a wrist shot on goal that beat Phillips, though Phillips did get a piece of it.
Shortly after, Jackson thought he had his second of the game, wiring a shot off the crossbar that he believed dropped down and bounced across the goal line. However, as the puck did not cross the line, the official right by the net was on top of it and signaled to play on. Jackson was already celebrating before realizing he had to back check the other way. Once play stopped, video review confirmed the original call.
With 13:21 to play in the period, Kyle Connor (Shelby Township) wired a one-timer from the right circle that deflected off the shin pad of Motte (St. Clair) in front and in. That brought the Wolverines even at two.
With 53.5 seconds to play in the frame, Kile (Troy) busted into the Michigan Tech zone, saw his first shot blocked and the rebound immediately bounce right back to him, fired again and scored on the low blocker side.
Michigan skated off after 40 minutes having come all the way back from a 2-0 deficit to lead 3-2.
“I think we always had this calmness about us that even when we don’t start well, we can come back late in games or in the middle of the game,” Michigan captain JT Compher said. “We’ve done it a couple times this year, so obviously that’s not the way we want to start the game, but just stay calm, keep with our game. I thought we did play a pretty good first period and then got stronger as the game went on.”
After a hard-fought third period, Piazza capped it off at 4-2 with an empty-netter with 32.4 seconds remaining in the game, his first career collegiate goal.
F – Brent Baltus (Michigan Tech)
F – Kyle Connor (UM; Shelby Township)
F – Dominik Shine (NMU; Pinckney)
D – Mark Auk (MTU; St. Clair Shores)
D – Sam Piazza (UM)
G – Steve Racine (UM)
MVP : Kyle Connor