Western Michigan edges Tech in OT of GLI final
Detroit — In baseball, a close game is referred to as a pitcher’s duel.
On Friday, Western Michigan’s 1-0 overtime win over Michigan Tech in the 52nd annual Great Lakes Invitational was a little different.
It was a goalie’s duel.
Colt Conrad’s goal with 8:05 left in overtime won it for Western. He was also named tournament MVP.
“I just saw an opening in front of the net and I waved at it,” Conrad said of his game-winning goal. “I hit the post on the first (attempt) and stuck with it.”
Friday’s game officially went down as a tie, as it was not completed in the first five minutes of the first 20-minute extra period. The remaining time was played for tournament purposes only.
“It was a good hockey game,” Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be as defensive as it was tonight.”
As far as the goalies duel went, both freshman netminders were almost statistically identical.
Ben Blacker stopped all 23 shots he saw for the Broncos (9-5-4), while Angus Redmond, Blacker’s counterpart for the Huskies (13-7-4), stopped 24 of 25.
“You know, the other guy, he played a great game,” said Blacker, who was named to the All-Tournament team as its goaltender. “Obviously, if you can go zero goals against for the regular 60 minutes and then some, into the overtime, he played a great game.”
Pearson said the efforts of Redmond, who blanked Michigan on Thursday night, were not lost on him.
“Obviously their goaltender had a real good weekend, but I told Angus when (Blacker) was named All-Tournament that I’d take him over any goalie in the country right now, not just their guy,” Pearson said. “He’s played extremely well and he’s going to win a lot of hockey games for us.”
WMU sixth-year coach Andy Murray said Friday’s game topped a list that includes 300 wins as an NHL coach, three IIHF championships and a career that spans more than 30 years.
“I’ve had the good fortune to have this occupation my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never had to have a real job. Tonight was as good a hockey game as I’ve ever been involved with.”
What Murray can claim as perhaps the icing on that cake, for now, is the ability to say he coached the final GLI championship at Joe Louis Arena.
“Nobody else is going to win the last game in the GLI at ‘The Joe,’ which Western Michigan did,” Murray said.
Near the beginning of the three-hour, 10-minute game, it looked like Western had taken a 1-0 lead, on a goal from Wade Allison at 1:11 of the first period, but Michigan Tech challenged, alleging that a WMU player was offside. The goal was overturned.
The penalty kill for Tech has been pristine since late November. It hasn’t allowed a power play goal since Alaska got one on Nov. 25 – the only goal Tech allowed in a 4-1 win.
Tech was on the right side of a long 5-on-3 late in the second period.
A bench minor at 17:55 for too many men, followed by a Neal Goff minor for hooking three seconds later gave the Huskies the two-man advantage.
But the Broncos killed both penalties and the game remained scoreless after two periods.
At 7:05 of the third, Tech’s Matt Roy (high sticking) and WMU’s Griffen Molino (embellishing) picked up offsetting minors. Then at 8:48, Frederik Tiffels went off for a hooking minor, putting Tech on the power play.
The Broncos again killed the penalty.
“We just looked really stagnant on the power play,” Pearson said of that unit, which operated in stark contrast to Tech’s penalty kill. “We just didn’t move the puck with any purpose. We were just really out of sorts.”
At 6:06 of overtime, Western’s Taylor Fleming was assessed a five-minute major for checking Thomas Beretta from behind, and was given a game misconduct. Mike McKee served the penalty.
The two teams have played each other three times in the last five tournaments.
In 2012, Michigan Tech blanked Western, 4-0, in the title game. Then in 2013, the Broncos won a 1-0 shutout to win the championship in Western’s last trip to the GLI.
Western’s football team plays Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl on Monday afternoon, looking to complete its undefeated season.
Murray said his team will be watching.
“Our guys are going to have a nice little trophy in the room while they’re watching it,” Murray said.
Defensemen: Cliff Watson, Michigan Tech; Corey Schuenem, Western Michigan
Forwards: Colt Conrad, Western Michigan; Tony Calderone, Michigan; Matheson Iacopelli, Western Michigan
Goalie: Ben Blacker, Western Michigan
Al Willman is a freelance writer