Michigan Tech prepares for final GLI at Joe Louis

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Tech’s Angus Redmond makes a save against Lake Superior State at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena on Nov. 11.

DETROIT — As four storied college hockey programs descend on the Joe Louis Arena on Detroit’s waterfront for the final Great Lakes Invitational in the arena’s existence, there is no clear favorite between the combatants. The Michigan Tech Huskies won the first tournament competed at Joe Louis, and they would love nothing more than to bookend that victory with another one on Friday evening.

GAME TIMES: Semifinal 1: Michigan Tech vs Michigan, Thursday, 3:30 p.m.; Semifinal 2: Michigan State vs No. 16 Western Michigan, 7 p.m.

ON THE AIR: Television: Fox Sports Detroit; Radio: 93.5 FM WKMJ

MICHIGAN TECH: The Huskies last won the GLI in 2012 when goaltender Pheonix Copley earned Most Valuable Player honors by shutting out both the Michigan Wolverines and the Western Michigan Broncos.

This season, the Huskies come in with the best overall record at 12-7-3. It has not been an easy path by any means, as the Huskies opened the season 0-4-0 with losses to Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State. The Huskies continued to struggle through goaltending questions and inconsistent play to amass a 1-5-2 record going into a home-and-home series with Northern Michigan.

Since then, the Huskies have rattled off 11 wins over the next 14 contests and are in the midst of a three-game winning streak thanks in large part to the play of freshman goaltender Angus Redmond. Redmond leads the NCAA in goals against average with a 1.40 mark.

Up front, the Huskies are led offensively by sophomore Jake Lucchini, who has a team-high in goals (seven) and is tied for the lead in points (12). Junior Joel L’Esperance has also been strong, scoring six goals and 12 points. Junior Matt Roy leads the team in assists (10) and is also tied for the team lead in points (12).

The Huskies, who face the Wolverines Thursday at 3:30 p.m., have already played Michigan twice, losing once, 4-3, and tying the sequel, 3-3. Redmond did not start either game.

MICHIGAN: After defeating and tying the Huskies earlier this season, the Wolverines, who have won the last two GLIs, appeared to be well on their way towards another strong season with a record of 3-1-1. Since then, however, they have been less spectacular, going just 4-7-0. Losses to Vermont and Dartmouth started the downward spiral that included a loss to Lake Superior State on Nov. 25.

A big reason for the Wolverines’ struggles continues to be the way they have played defensively. They surrendered 45 shots in a game against the Huskies in late October, and have not gotten much better, giving up 48 and 58 shots, respectively, to then-No. 7 Penn State on Dec. 1 and 2.

To make matters worse, Team USA added sophomore defenseman Joseph Cecconi to their roster for the World Junior Tournament.

The Wolverines are led offensively by freshman Will Lockwood, who has six goals and 12 points through 16 games. Classmate Jake Slaker is also off to a good start with four goals and 11 points.

Unlike the Huskies, the Wolverines are still trying to figure out their goaltending situation. Freshman Hayden Lavigne might finally be emerging as the best option, sporting a 4-2-0 record in six appearances and a 2.29 goals against average.

MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans have not won the GLI since 2009, when they defeated RPI in the title game.

Starting out 0-4-0, the Spartans have played better of late, going 4-5-1 since. However, they are in the midst of a three-game losing streak entering Wednesday’s game.

After their rough start that included a sweep at the hands of Lake Superior State, the Spartans earned splits against both the Huskies and the Ferris State Bulldogs and beat and tied then-No. 5 North Dakota.

In their series with the Huskies, the Spartans won the Friday matchup with an overtime goal from sophomore Mason Appleton before being drowned out in a 5-1 loss Saturday.

Appleton leads the Spartans in scoring with team-highs in goals (six), assists (eight), and points (14). Freshman Taro Hirose, who played last season with Redmond on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League, has had a strong start to his college career with three goals and 10 points.

Junior Ed Minney is doing his best to replace the graduated Jake Hildebrand. In 12 appearances this season, Minney is 4-6-1 with a 3.25 goals against average and a .887 save percentage.

WESTERN MICHIGAN: The Broncos return to the GLI for the first time since winning the tournament back in 2013 when Lukas Hafner’s shot beat Copley in overtime at Comerica Park.

Opening the season with a sweep of Ferris State, the Broncos are 3-0-1 against WCHA opponents thanks to a win and tie against then-No. 20 Bowling Green. Since that hot start, the Broncos, who play in the competitive NCHC, are 5-5-2. They are coming off a split with then-No. 8 North Dakota.

Sophomore Matheson Iacopelli leads the team in goals (13) and points (17). His goal total is tied for fourth-best in the country.

Freshman Wade Allison (9-6=14) is off to a strong start, and senior Taylor Fleming leads the team in assists (13).

Between the pipes, sophomore Trevor Gorsuch has been good, but not great, going 4-3-2 overall with a 3.07 goals against average and a .894 save percentage.

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