College hockey is an amazing thing. I would go as far as describing it as the heart of the sport. The players aren’t out on the ice competing for a paycheck, but rather to support their teammates and represent the name on their sweaters. This past Monday and Tuesday, I was fortunate to attend the Great Lakes Invitational. I was reminded why I love college hockey and how it truly has a strong impact on higher levels of the game. Here is a quick recap of the two-day tournament:
Falcons Crash the Party
The Bowling Green Falcons were this year’s Great Lakes Invitational Champions. They achieved this by defeating Michigan in a close matchup Monday night, then by downing Michigan Tech 4-1 the following evening. Goals in the second game for the Falcons were provided by Brett D’Andrea, Connor Ford, John Schilling, and Tyler Spezia. Freshman goaltender Eric Dop played very well between the pipes in the final game, stopping 29-of-30 shots.
The all-tournament team consisted of players from each of the four participants. Forwards included Lukas Craggs of Bowling Green, Cooper Marody from Michigan, and Patrick Khodorenko out of Michigan State. The defense corps were represented by Bowling Green’s Alec Rauhauser and Michigan Tech’s Mitch Reinke. Bowling Green goaltender Eric Dop rounded out the all-tournament team. Craggs was also slated as the tournament MVP, with two goals and three assists during that span.
Hockey in Michigan
Three of the four teams that participated in the invitational were from the Mitten State. Minnesota may proclaim themselves as the “State of Hockey,” but Michigan sure does have their own argument. All of these programs performed well and had bright spots in each of their games. The rosters themselves were made up of many players from Michigan, including eight on the roster of Bowling Green, the only out-of-state team in the tournament.
Little Caesars Arena
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the NHL’s newest venue, you’re missing out. The design of the perimeter and concourse area make for a modern and clean look. There are several restaurants connected directly to the arena, which make for a great game day experience. At different points, we sat clear at the top, as well as right by the glass, and I don’t think there was a bad seat in the place. The décor was spot-on, filling the venue with rich history and tradition.
Michigan v. Michigan State
Ohio State may be Michigan’s rival in most sports, but in hockey, it’s their inter-state foe, Michigan State. These two teams met in the consolation game, with the Wolverines taking a 6-4 decision. There was plenty of exciting action, including some pushing and shoving after the whistle. These two teams will meet again in the same location for a “Duel in the D” on Saturday, February 10th.
After the New Year, the season has resumed for NCAA Hockey teams around the country. This is the most intriguing point in the season, where teams either stumble and miss the postseason, or they get a massive load of steam rolling forward. Momentum can be a crazing thing in sports. At the moment, the team that represents that is Bowling Green. Their players have a ton of confidence after winning this tournament as the “special invite” team. They face Ferris State in WCHA play this weekend.
Island of Misfit Toys
The second-place Michigan Tech Huskies might have lost the tournament they were hosting, but their supportive fan base surely lifted their spirits. Shout-out to Mitch’s Misfits and their pep band for a great tournament. Even in an NHL facility, they could be heard. At one point, it’s almost certain they were shouting “Go Tech” for two or three minutes straight. Keep those lungs rested and best of luck the rest of the year.
Who raised the first banner in Little Caesars Arena? Well, that would be the Bowling Green Falcons. It was joke on the car ride home that in technicality, the Red Wings won’t be able to say they raised the first banner in their own area. The Great Lakes Invitational banner was lowered after the game and raised following the ceremonies.
Dreams Come True
Although the NCAA is a great pool for the NHL to pick through, not all players have the talent to make it at the next level. This event was an opportunity for some lower-tier players to skate in a game on NHL ice and live out their dreams. One thing that makes the GLI so special is the relationship with the Detroit Red Wings, who have loaned out their home ice since the beginning of the tournament. Seeing the smiles on players’ faces was like watching kids in a candy store, as they scratched an item off their bucket lists.