By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – The tournament host will play for the final championship at Joe Louis Arena.
Michigan Tech topped the Michigan Wolverines in the opening semifinal of the 52nd Great Lakes Invitational Thursday afternoon, a 2-0 final. Freshman Angus Redmond recorded the shutout in goal, while defensemen Dane Birks and captain Cliff Watson each scored their first of the season.
With the win, the Huskies secured a berth in the championship game Friday night, though head coach Mel Pearson thinks his team has much better to give.
“It wasn’t our best effort or best game, I call it ‘holiday hockey,” Pearson said. “There was a lot of rust we shook off, we got a couple goals from unlikely sources tonight… We need to play better than that. We’ll take the win, they don’t ask you how, but that’s what happens when you take a long time off. We’re fortunate we were able to get the win. I think Angus did real nice job to keep us in the game at critical times.”
For the Wolverines, who have the most GLI titles in history, it was a disappointing end to be shut out.
“You had to make your chances count in a close game, whether it was on the power play or 5-on-5, we weren’t good enough, so you learn from it and try to bounce back tomorrow,” Wolverines head coach Red Berenson said. “But our team worked hard over the break, and I thought we’d be better than we were here.”
A career-first goal opened the scoring in the two-day tournament. Birks – a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect – tipped home a point shot from fellow defenseman and St. Clair Shores native Mark Auk for his first career goal at 5:46 of the opening frame.
With just over eight minutes to play in the period, the Wolverines had a chance to tie things up with a pivotal 5-on-3 man advantage, but Redmond and the Huskies managed to stifle the Michigan attack.
“Michigan’s got a real good power play, they’ve got some skilled guys, they always have and had,” Pearson said. “We played them earlier in the year in Ann Arbor and basically their power play carried them to a win and a tie down there, so I thought our penalty killers did a great job. Your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer, and I thought he was outstanding, he blocked a lot of shots. We were really good in that area tonight. If you look for one positive, that might be it.”
Joel L’Esperance, a junior forward and Brighton native, thought he added an insurance marker for Michigan Tech after tipping home a Matt Roy point shot during a 4-on-4 stint 4:18 into the second stanza. However, the goal would be reviewed for a high stick, and it was determined that L’Esperance’s stick was above the crossbar and thus, disallowed.
But the Huskies ensured the next one counted.
Watson scored his first of the season with 11:19 to play in the period, firing home a blast from the side wall to beat Lavigne. Though Michigan Tech dominated most of the frame, holding a 28-10 shot advantage after 40 minutes, though the Wolverines managed to control the play in the dying minutes.
With 4:12 left in the third period, Bloomfield Hills native and USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program alum Will Lockwood caught the Huskies’ Auk with a big hit behind the Tech goal. Lockwood was given a five-minute major for charging and game misconduct to set up a MTU power play to close out the game and seal the victory.