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December 28, 2012

Great Lakes Invitational Preview

When the 48th Annual Great Lakes Invitational gets underway Saturday, the Western Michigan Broncos will attempt to be the first "guest" since Colorado College in 2005 to win the tournament. Michigan Tech annually hosts the 2nd largest regular season tournament, behind the Beanpot, with Michigan and Michigan State regulars as well. WMU won the tournament in their last appearance back in 1986.

Michigan Wolverines

Michigan last played 2 weeks ago when they split against WMU. Here was our preview back then. Outside of some basic stat changes, and the fact that their rarely used goal-tender Adam Janecyk won the 2nd game of that series in a 2-0 shutout, nothing really needs to be noted. However, the one thing that really does need said: stellar freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba will not be with the Wolverines, as he is with the U.S. National Junior Team in international competition.

Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans were good enough last season to earn a 5-seed in the CCHA tournament, and just barely made it into the NCAA tournament, when they were promptly ousted by #3 overall seed Union. This season has been very hard on MSU though, as they sit in 9th place in the CCHA tournament with a mere 13 points and have a 5-10-2 record overall. Their offense has been mostly the problem, as they have scored a mere 1.6 goals/game when taking out blow-out victories against Michigan and Bowling Green. They did defeat Ferris State to close out the "in-semester" play, but that ended a 6 game streak where the Spartans earned just 1 point.

Michigan Tech Huskies

The hosts of the tournament come in with a 4-10-3 record. The lone WCHA representative of the tournament has not had much luck lately though. An 0-4-3 record in their last 7 games, and a 5 game losing streak that sandwiches a pair of overtime wins against Bemidji State. The last time Tech beat a team in regulation, was when they stunned Minnesota 5-3 back on October 19th. Defense appears to be the problem for the Huskies, as they have surrendered 4 or more goals in 10 of their 17 games, going 2-7-1 in those games.

Games and Predictions

The 4 games will take place over a two day set, with the first game taking place at 3:30 pm, and the second game taking place at roughly 7 pm. On Sunday, the consolation game is first up with the championship game taking place afterwards. Here was the preliminary draw:

Game 1: Western Michigan vs Michigan State
Game 2: Michigan Tech vs Michigan

The Michigan/Michigan Tech match-up could be possibly interesting. Michigan has a clear edge in talent, fans, and coaching, but they have yet to win a game away from Yost, losing a game on neutral ice against Cornell 5-1 just over a month ago. However, Michigan Tech is no Cornell, and Joe Louis Arena should feel like a 2nd home, at least on Saturday.

The Western Michigan/Michigan State match-up is interesting, just in it's own right. Both teams feature more grinding styles of play, and the Spartans swept the Broncos in Lawson when they last met back in November 2011. Still, this is a completely different MSU team, and Tom Anastos will have his hands full trying to keep his players up to speed with the aggressive style of Andy Murray.

With the way the draws are set up, we predict Michigan to defeat Tech 4-2 and WMU to defeat MSU 3-1. That should set up some good action on Sunday, when a bad defense meets a bad offense in a MT/MSU consolation game, and a great match-up between I-94 rivals WMU and Michigan in the championship.

In the consolation game, MSU should have the upper-hand, having more time to rest and scout. The Huskies also should be overpowered by the Spartan talent. MSU 2, MT 1.

In the championship game, the Broncos will have to come out better than they have in the 2nd half of series so far this season, and we expect they will. Michigan might miss the defensive and offensive presence of Trouba as well, and we predict the Broncos to relive the magic of the CCHA Championship back in March. WMU 3, UM 2



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