Dec. 28, 1997
Spartans Win Great Lakes Invitational Championship
Michigan State's Weaver nabs game-winner and MVP award
DETROIT -- The second-ranked Michigan State Spartans beat rival fifth-ranked Michigan, 5-3, in Sunday's Great Lakes Invitational championship game. It was the first time since 1985 that MSU has won the tournament title and the Spartan's win also ended Michigan's nine-year dominance of the event.
MSU sophomore defenseman Mike Weaver doubled his season scoring output with two goals in the championship game, including the game winner. That performance earned Weaver the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament MVP award and kept the University of Michigan from breaking the tournament record with ten-straight GLI titles. Weaver proved to be the man of the hour, finishing the tournament with two goals, two assists and some impressive open-ice hits.
The championship game got off to a quick start when Michigan scored in the first minute of play on a goal by Bobby Hayes at :23. Despite the early momentum the Wolverines gained on that goal, the Spartans stuck to their game plan and recovered quickly.
MSU played a well balanced game, killing off a five minute checking from behind penalty called on Spartan Brad Hodgins who leveled Michigan standout and CCHA scoring leader Bill Muckalt at 9:13 of the first. Hodgins was also nailed with a 10 minute misconduct so head coach Ron Mason sent Curtis Gemmel to the box to serve the penalty. That move would prove to be a key in the game.
The Spartan penalty kill unit, ranked first in the nation at 91%, has killed off 96 of the has faced this season. Michigan State goalie Chad Alban was key as he turned away numerous shots and rebound attempts as Michigan pummeled him with shots on the advantage. As MSU held Michigan scoreless on the five-minute advantage, Gemmel came out of the penalty box to pick up the loose puck and scored a flawless breakaway goal (14:23) on Wolverines goalie, Marty Turco.
Gemmel picked up the puck along the boards as he slipped out of the box, beat a defenseman with some quick skating, went to the backhand and slipped it between Turco's pads five hole. It was Gemmel's first goal of the season. The goal was assisted by Rustyn Dolyny and Chris Bogas, tied things up 1-1 and gave MSU the momentum it needed to take control of the game.
Less than a minute later, Sean Berens added his tenth goal of the season (15:52) and put MSU ahead 2-1. His goal was assisted by Mike Weaver and was knocked in off a rebound and a defenseman's skate.
"College hockey is a game of momentum and I think we've seen the momentum switch a few times already," said University of Michigan head coach, Red Berenson after the first period. "And, I think you'll see that happen throughout the rest of this game because both these teams play with a lot of emotion."
The second period proved close as Michigan's Muckalt picked up his 19th goal of the season and tied the game 2-2 with a slapshot from the point that was so hard in rang through the net and popped back out before Alban got his eyes on it. MSU's Weaver responded with a sharp one-timer from the top of the slot which beat Michigan's Turco and put the Spartans back on top 3-2.
After both teams traded hitting after the whistle penalties at 5:08, MSU capitalized on the open ice created by the four on four play. Weaver added his second of the game, and the eventual game winner, at 5:38 with a hard one timer right through the two-man screen in front of Turco's net. The goal was set up on a pass from Sean Berens and Jon Gaskins and put MSU up 4-2.
Michigan refused to sit back and pulled with in one goal of the Spartans less than two minutes later on a goal from Muckalt. It was his second of the game and his 20th of the season. The second ended at 4-3 with MSU holding the advantage.
"I think both teams are forechecking very well and shooting the puck successfully from the point," said MSU head coach Ron Mason between periods. "The nice part of it is that we're getting these opportunities and shooting well through traffic when it's hard for the goaltender to see the puck. I think Michigan came out hard in the second and we just need to stick to our game plan."
That plan worked well for the Spartans as they padded the lead to 5-3 with an insurance goal at 11:19 of the third period. The goal was scored by Andrew Bogle and was set up by freshman Damon Whitten and tournament MVP, Mike Weaver. The MSU win in this year's Great Lakes Invitational championship game ended Michigan's nine-year reign as tournament champion. MSU (16-2-2 overall) outshot Michigan (15-4-1 overall) 28-22 and neither team scored on either of its two power plays.
"We've always had a great rivalry with Michigan," said MSU's coach Mason after the game. "This year, we thought we had a good chance to win it because we beat them earlier in the season. Somebody had to win this thing and I'm glad it was us, we haven't won this thing in a long time. We had a lot of fans here, so it was good for them too. Beating Michigan was great, but we just wanted to win the tournament."
Michigan State's Weaver agreed and said finally winning the GLI tournament is just a sign of what's coming for Spartan hockey in the second half of the season.
"It's been a big rivalry throughout the years and it felt good to win," said Weaver. "We've had a good first half. Now we want to bear down in the second half and come up with more victories."
The two-day attendance total of 36,019 was the largest turnout since 1989's GLI. Next year, the tournament will be played Dec. 29-30 and will feature a rematch of MSU and Michigan as well as Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan.
The 1997 GLI All-Tournament Team:
at the official