DETROIT - Outdoor ice can make for some ugly hockey.
But that doesn't make Friday night's win any less beautiful for Michigan Tech.
The Huskies took down Michigan State for the third time this season, outlasting the Spartans 2-1 in a 10-man shootout after a 2-2 tie to advance to the Great Lakes Invitational Championship game at Comerica Park tonight against Western Michigan, a repeat of Tech's 2012 triumph.
With grade-A misses from C.J. Eick, Mike Neville and Chris Leibinger late in the third period, the Huskies looked like they might be setting themselves up for heartbreak tied 2-2 with overtime looming. The Spartans practice shootouts each week - Big Ten games use them to settle ties - and Tech doesn't bother.
Instead, Pheonix Copley continued his love affair with Detroit, stuffing four of five Sparty skaters while Husky forward Ryan Furne buried his chance after some slick stick-handling to send Tech into the championship game and Furne to the bottom of a dog-pile.
The Huskies will skate for a chance to win back-to-back GLIs for the first time since 1979-80.
MSU0 0 2 0 - 2
Tech0 1 1 0 - 2
Tech won shootout 2-1
First period - No scoring. Penalties - MSU, Jake Chelios (cross-checking), 2:23; Tech, Blake Pietila (elbowing), 12:54.
Second period - 1, Tech, Jacob Johnstone (Blake Hietala, Tyler Heinonen), 13:10. Penalties - MSU, Chelios (high-sticking), 3:25; MSU, Matt DeBlouw (slashing), 6:46; MSU, Rhett Holland (high-sticking), 16:54; Tech, Mike Neville (interference), 19:41.
Third period - 2, MSU, Matt Berry (Chelios, Greg Wolfe), :52 (PP); 3, MSU, Ryan Keller (John Draeger), 4:02; 4, Tech, Alex Petan (Neville, C.J. Eick), 8:13. Penalties - Tech, Chris Leibinger (tripping), 16:30.
Overtime - No scoring. Penalties - none.
MSU, Michael Ferrantino - NG; Tech, Tyler Heinonen, NG; MSU, Berry - NG; Tech - Petan, NG; MSU, Villiam Haag - G; Tech, Tanner Kero - G; MSU, Brent Darnell - NG; Tech, Pietila, NG; MSU, Wolfe, NG; Tech, Ryan Furne - G.
Goalie saves - MSU, Jake Hildebrand (43 shots, 41 saves); Tech, Pheonix Copley (26 shots, 24 saves).
"It would be a great thing to go back-to-back. It has been many, many years since Michigan Tech has done that," sophomore Alex Petan said.
"As soon as we hit the ice for warm-ups it was the experience of a lifetime."
Copley won the John MacInnes Trophy last season, given out for the GLI MVP, after posting consecutive shutouts.
Two third-period goals snapped his streak Friday - though he still finished with a more-than-respectable 24 saves on 26 shots - but Copley proved he still has that GLI magic touch by blanking MSU's Michael Ferrantino, Matt Berry, Brent Darneel and critically, State captain Greg Wolfe.
"You get on a roll as a goaltender and he has played very well here," Pearson said.
"They practice shootouts, they have some very dangerous guys on that shootout and he did great. Obviously it helped us win the game."
As Copley held up his end, Furne did the rest.
The senior, fifth in line for the three-person shootout, skated in hard from the side and deked his way past an aggressive Jake Hildebrand.
Furne put a punctuation on the win as he slammed the puck past the completely stretched-out MSU netminder.
"I just looked at the previous shooters with what happened and I saw that the goalie came out pretty far, so it was hard to get a shot off. So I knew I had to put a deke on and luckily it worked out for us," Furne said.
"We have had two shootouts (the first was at Minnesota Duluth in October) and we have won both," Pearson added.
"I am going to vote in the WCHA that we go to shootouts."
With choppy ice and unpredictable pucks, Tech tried to keep its attack as simple as possible in regulation, shooting when a lane opened and crashing to the net hard.
It paid off with two "greasy" goals in the second and third period, as Jacob Johnstone slapped home a rebound from Blake Hietala's shot and Petan earned a critical equalizer with a seeing-eye shot from the slot.
Tech outshot State 43-26, a long-running trend for the Huskies of plenty chances but few goals.
"We really talked about under-handling the puck and from the defense up to the forwards I thought we did that really well," Petan said. "We didn't do too much, kept it simple and it worked for us."
"I think both goals weren't the greatest scoring opportunities but you have to. In a game like this, with ice conditions like this, there aren't going to be, maybe, a lot of great goals. You have to get to the net and hopefully get a bounce," Pearson added.
Taking some of the shine off the victory, Tech proved wasteful in the third period with several golden chances to win the game in regulation.
Eick rattled the crossbar when given time and space from the slot, and Neville and Leibinger (who sprang free after leaving the penalty box at the right time) both misfired on one-on-one breakaways.
Neville missed wide after deking to create space, while Leibinger fired right into Hildebrand's stomach.
Wasting chances like that will be devastating against a team with Western's quality.
"We didn't score on our best scoring opportunities tonight, and that has plagued us a little bit this year," Pearson said.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:07 p.m. tonight (though that time has proved pliable to maintain the ice conditions), though the game will not be televised on Fox Sports Net Detroit until 10 p.m., as the network is committed to Pistons and Red Wings games on both its feeds.