By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – It was only fitting that the teams played extra hockey with it being their last playing experience inside Joe Louis Arena.
Western Michigan and Michigan Tech made the 52nd – and final at The Joe – Great Lakes Invitational last just a bit longer, and the Broncos ultimately captured the MacInnes Cup with a 1-0 overtime win. The title marked the Broncos’ third in five appearances.
Sophomore forward and tournament MVP Colt Conrad scored the game’s lone tally 8:05 into overtime. Broncos freshman all-tournament goaltender Ben Blacker stopped 59 of 60 shots through the first six periods of the tournament and eventually earned the shutout Friday night to finish the job.
— MiHockey (@MiHockeyNow) December 31, 2016
“It’s the last year of the GLI here at The Joe,” WMU head coach Andy Murray said. “Nobody else is gonna win the last game here in the GLI at The Joe, which Western Michigan did, so we’re real proud of our players. We didn’t have a particularly strong year last year. We came abck with a new conviction. The head coach knew he had to be better. We changed some things, got some quality people with us.
“I’ve had the good fortune to have this occupation my whole life, I’ve never had to have a real job. Tonight was as good a hockey game as I’ve been involved with. I think the fans enjoyed it. You saw outstanding goaltending on both sides, great scoring opportuntiies, guys sacrificing their bodies, eating pucks, blocking shots.”
Blacker credited his teammates for being able to record the wins between the pipes.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Blacker said of being able to record the wins in goal. “The team has been really gelling together really well, so we’ve been doing really well in the defensive end and I think if we just keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll do well.”
MTU’s Angus Redmond, a freshman himself, shut out the Michigan Wolverines in the semifinal, and stopped all but one shot in the championship game. Redmond took just his third loss of the season in 16 games. Though Blacker was named to the all-tournament team, Redmond certainly had the vote of his coach Mel Pearson.
“I told Angus when the Western Michigan goaltender was named all-tournament that I’d take him over any goalie in the country right now,” Pearson said. “He’s played extremely well, and he’s gonna win a lot of hockey games for us. If I had a vote, he’d be the all-tournament goalie, and that’s taking nothing away from their guy; he’s phenomenal, but I think Angus made some real huge saves tonight.”
It appeared the Broncos opened the scoring just 1:11 into the opening period, but the Huskies challenged the play on being offsides. Video review determined the play was indeed offsides, the call was overturned and the game remained scoreless.
With 2:02 to play in the second period, the Huskies virtually had a full, two-minute 5-on-3 advantage to close out the frame, as WMU defenseman Neal Goff took a hooking minor with the Broncos having taken a too-many-men bench minor just three seconds prior.
But Blacker and the Broncos’ penalty kill staved off the Huskies’ attack and kept the game tied at zero to close out the second period.
That’s how things stood after a full 60 minutes, with both teams keeping it a tightly-contested battle.
In sudden-death overtime, WMU’s Taylor Fleming took a boarding major at the 6:06 mark to set up Michigan Tech with a big power-play opportunity. The penalty came right after Redmond made a remarkable desperation save at the other end to keep MTU alive.
And with 8:05 remaining, Conrad finished it off by banging home a puck at the side of the goal, as his second whack put the puck through Redmond for the win.
“I just saw an opening in the front of the net and Wade had it behind the net and I called for it hoping he would find me and he did,” Conrad said. “It was a great pass, I kind of had an open net, hit the post on the fist one, but stuck with it.
“It means everything. It feels good just for the team. We worked so hard this season. I feel like we’re finally getting what we deserve.”
Goaltender: Ben Blacker – WMU
Defensemen: Corey Schueneman – WMU, Cliff Watson – MTU
Forwards: Tony Calderone – UM, Matheson Iacopelli – WMU, Colt Conrad – WMU
MVP: Colt Conrad – WMU