First Lake State title: Lake Superior State outlasts Michigan Tech for Great Lakes Invitational college hockey championship

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By Journal Sports Staff
DETROIT — Lake Superior State netted a pair of empty-net goals in the final 70 seconds to break open a one-goal game and defeat Michigan Tech 6-3 in the championship game of the 54th annual Great Lakes Invitational college hockey tournament on Monday afternoon.
The win at Little Caesars Arena marked the Lakers’ first GLI title in its fourth time in the tourney, which started in 1965. LSSU’s most recent appearance came in 1999.
Lake State head coach Damon Whitten won four straight GLI titles as a player at Michigan State from 1997-2001.
He said winning something like the GLI for the first time makes it more special.
“We’ve got five national championships, we’ve got Hobey Baker Award winners, tremendous alumni, history (and) tradition, but this is our first Great Lakes Invitational championship,” Whitten told the Detroit News.
This was also the third straight year that the “fourth team” invitee won the title after Western Michigan won in 2016 and Bowling Green State took the previous title.
Tech, which has played in each year of the GLI as a cohost, was going for its 11th championship in its 27th finals appearance.
In this finals matchup of WCHA teams, LSSU (11-6-1) scored the opening two goals barely a minute apart near the midpoint of the first period off the sticks of Diego Cuglietta and Hampus Erikkson.
Cuglietta was named tournament MVP after also scoring one of the late empty-net goals Monday to go with two goals he had against Michigan State on Sunday night, which included the game-winning overtime score.
Tech (10-8-2) got itself back in the title game later in the first period on a goal by Jake Lucchini a little over three minutes before intermission.
They completed the comeback for a 2-2 tie early in the second during a five-minute power play after the Lakers’ Gage Torrel was whistled for contact to the head and also given a game misconduct after an incident involving the Huskies’ Justin Misiak.
Lake State retook the lead on a goal by Max Humitz near the midpoint of the second, padding its advantage to 4-2 after a power play goal by Brian Basilico with 3:48 left in the period.
Tech pulled back within one at 4-3 on another power play goal by Trenton Bliss three minutes into the third.
A few minutes later, LSSU had its fifth goal waved off, but the Lakers kept MTU out of the net until Tech coach Joe Shawhan was forced to pull goaltender Robbie Beydoun with 2:12 to go.
Beydoun finished with 34 saves, while Lake State goalie Nick Kossoff had to make just 18 stops.
Joining Cuglietta on the all-tourney team were Kossoff and LSSU teammate Collin Saccoman along with Tech’s Lucchini.
Tech and Lake State meet for their only WCHA series of the season Feb. 15-16 in Sault Ste. Marie.
MTU leads the WCHA at 9-3-1-1 with 29 points, while LSSU is fifth, just behind Northern Michigan University, at 7-5-1-0 and 22 points.
NMU split a pair of games on the road against the Lakers on Nov. 23-24, losing 4-2 and winning 2-1, and also split vs. Tech Dec. 7-8, winning 5-3 at home and losing 3-1 in Houghton.
The Wildcats finish the regular season with back-to-back series against their Upper Peninsula rivals, hosting LSSU Feb. 22-23 and playing a home-and-home series with MTU on March 1-2, the second game in Marquette.
In the GLI consolation game played earlier Monday, Michigan State and tourney cohost Michigan tied 2-2 in overtime.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.