December 27, 2004
Great Lakes Invitational

Joe Louis Arena • Detroit, Mich.

 Holiday Tournament Preview

This week's schedule
National TV Schedule

Holiday Tournament Previews
Badger Hockey Showdown
Florida College Classic
Ledyard National Bank Classic
Ohio Hockey Classic
UConn Hockey Classic
Wells Fargo Denver Cup
Dodge Holiday Classic


Wednesday, Dec. 29

Michigan vs. Michigan Tech, 4:30 p.m. ET
New Hampshire vs. Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET

Thursday, Dec. 30
Third-place game, 4:30 p.m. ET
Championship game, 8 p.m. ET

Top-ranked Boston College had the toughest road to the GLI championship – both in scheduling and circumstances – but still had its banner hoisted to the Joe Louis Arena rafters. After soundly beating Michigan, 4-1, in the first round, the Eagles held on to beat Michigan State, 4-3, in the final. And all this without starting goalie Matti Kaltiainen, who was suspended for the tournament because of a violation of team rules. Also in 2003, the Spartans defeated host Michigan Tech, 7-2, in the first round, and the Wolverines thumped the Huskies, 6-2, in the consolation game.


Michigan Tech defenseman Brad Sullivan was born on the day that the Huskies last won their tournament – Dec. 28, 1980. As Tech was beating Michigan, 3-2, in overtime in Detroit, Cathy and Thomas Sullivan were welcoming their first child into the world up in Marquette. Since that day, the Huskies have been kept out of the winner’s circle, and 24 more of Jamie Russell’s charges have been born.


This list is shorter than it would have been if there were no World Junior Championship (Michigan is missing goalie Al Montoya, defenseman Matt Hunwick and forwards Mike Brown, T.J. Hensick and Kevin Porter), but there are still plenty of intriguing players planning to suit up. The Wolverines boast electrifying creator Jeff Tambellini, power forward Eric Nystrom and goal-hound Milan Gajic up front, and solid Brandon Rogers on the blue line.

Michigan's first-round opponent, Michigan Tech, is led by dangerous defenseman Lars Helminen and forwards Colin Murphy and Chris Conner, even though Conner (7-6–13) is having a rough year so far, at least by his standards. The native of Detroit suburb of Westland is worth watching if only to see whether the GLI snaps him out of his funk. He’s scored four of Tech’s last nine GLI goals and has been named to the all-tournament team two straight years.

New Hampshire’s line of Sean Collins, Preston Callander and Brett Hemingway has really jelled of late and is a fun bunch to watch. Hemingway is showing a goal-scorer’s touch that might be better than his older brother’s, and Collins has displayed a more polished two-way game this season. Their opponent, Michigan State, still is waiting for Hobey Baker hopeful Jim Slater to go on a tear. He has just six goals in 18 games thus far, and several other Spartan forwards who have shown ability to score in the past also are gripping their sticks tightly, including David Booth, Tommy Goebel and Mike Lalonde. Big Spartan blueliner A.J. Thelen might be rounding into form after a subpar first half. Goalie Dominic Vicari is probably the Montoya-less tournament’s best between the pipes.


Even depleted by the WJC, Michigan should have no trouble with the overmatched Huskies in the tournament opener. But Wednesday’s nightcap is a little tougher to call. The Spartans smashed New Hampshire, 5-1, back in October in East Lansing, but that might not be as telling as it seems. The UNH coaching staff was not-so-privately disgusted by the Wildcats’ effort in that game, and will make it a point to play MSU with a lot more vigor this time around. For their part, the Spartans will have a lot of crowd support at the Joe and recent history on their side. In the first two years under Rick Comley, the Spartans turned around their fortunes in the second half (30-16-2 combined) after a miserable first (16-15-2). This season might continue that trend. The game could go either way, but let’s call it an MSU win.

On Day Two, New Hampshire likely will roll over Michigan Tech in the early consolation game. Despite the infusion of nine freshmen into the Husky lineup, the Houghton Heroes almost seem to be worse off than they were during previous unremarkable seasons. Smooth UNH freshman defenseman Craig Switzer, a product of the Salmon Arm junior team that featured Travis Zajac and Kris Chucko, won’t have much trouble keeping the Huskies in front of him.

The championship with be the third installment of the tense rivalry between U-M and MSU. The Wolverines swept a home-and-home series from the Spartans by scores of 4-2 and 5-4 in early December. Of course, that was with their full complement of players and their No. 1 goalie. Shooting against Noah Ruden is far less intimidating than shooting against Montoya, and that could drive up the Spartans’ sagging confidence. U-M is always dangerous up front, but without key table-setter T.J. Hensick, the edge might go to Vicari and the MSU defense. In an upset, Sparty gets it done.

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