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Western beats MSU, will face Tech in GLI final

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Western Michigan enjoys playing in the Great Lakes Invitational.

And, for good reason. The Broncos have advanced to the championship game each of the last four times they have been invited to the tournament.

Western scored two power-play goals in the opening period and two more in the second and went on to earn a dominating, 4-1 semifinal win over Michigan State Thursday night, receiving a strong performance from freshman goaltender Ben Blacker.

The Broncos (9-5-3) will play Michigan Tech (13-7-3) at 7 p.m. Friday for the right to raise the GLI championship banner for the final time at Joe Louis Arena. The tournament moves to the new Little Caesars Arena next year.

MSU (4-10-1) plays Michigan (7-9-1) in the consolation game at 3:30 p.m.

"It was just a disappointing, frustrating game for us," Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said. "Special teams has been a real issue for us, of late in particular and it cost us the game tonight.

"I thought their goaltender (Blacker) played outstanding. They're a good team and they took advantage of special teams and we did not and that was the difference in the game."

Western, which defeated Michigan Tech, 1-0, in overtime at Comerica Park for the title in 2013, lost to Tech in the ’12 championship game, 4-0. Western defeated Michigan, 8-2, in the ’86 title game.

Western’s power play was outstanding. It scored all four goals with the extra man in quick fashion, with the first one coming 7 seconds in, the next two just 15 seconds in and the fourth 37 ticks in.

"We were able to get possession right away off the face-offs and really didn't have to chase a lot of pucks," Western coach Andy Murray said. "I felt our entries were good, obviously we got some good net traffic and some guys who can shoot the puck."

The Spartans also had little puck luck in the opening period, hitting two posts while giving up the power-play goals, the first on a rebound opportunity by Jade McMullen with 8:29 left in the period.

Then, Blacker, who entered the night with a 3-0 record (2.33 goals-against, .918 save percentage), made an outstanding save on Joe Cox’s shot by just getting his glove on the puck while being screened in front by JT Stenglein.

Seconds later, Cox was whistled for a penalty and the Broncos took advantage when Sheldon Dries’ wrist shot from the left circle slithered through the pads of goalie Ed Minney, who had lost his stick with 2:26 remaining.

Sophomore Griffen Molino (Trenton) opened up a 3-0 cushion with a backhander with 11:03 left in the second.

MSU had a great chance to get back in the game with a 5-minute power play, but could only muster one goal by Mason Appleton to pull within 3-1.

Matheson Iacopelli (Brownstown) answered with a power-play goal when he beat a screened Minney with a wrist shot high between the circles for a 4-1 advantage with 3:10 left in the middle period.

Western, which ranks eighth nationally in scoring (3.45 goals), has already surpassed last season’s win total.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @DavidGoricki