The Michigan hockey team has won a lot of championships over the past five seasons. Since 1996-97, the Wolverines have won two CCHA regular season titles, two CCHA Tournament Championships and an NCAA Championship.
But one thing has been out of the Wolverines’ grasp – the John A. MacInnes trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the Great Lakes Invitational.
“It’s still on our goal board,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “But it’s getting harder every year.”
Michigan will get another shot when it enters the event for the 33rd time on the weekend of Dec. 28 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
The Wolverines will play struggling Michigan Tech in the second semifinal on Dec. 28 after Michigan State faces Boston University in the first matchup of the evening. The following afternoon, Michigan will play in either the championship or third-place game against either the Spartans or the Eagles.
The Great Lakes Invitational was created 38 years ago to create more exposure for American-born players attempting to play in the National Hockey League. Its founders believed that creating a tournament that would generate interest from NHL scouts would do a lot toward achieving that goal.
Michigan started competing in the GLI one year after i’s 1965 inauguration and has played in the event every year since 1974.
The Wolverines dominated the event in the late ’80s and early ’90s – winning nine-straight from 1988 to 1996 – yet have not won the holiday tournament since. In the last two years, Michigan has failed to make it to the championship game, losing to Michigan Tech in 2000 and North Dakota in overtime last year. But in both of those seasons Michigan rebounded to make the NCAA Frozen Four.
“We have to build on it or we have to respond to not winning it,” Berenson said. “That’s what we’ve tried to do at Michigan whether we’ve got an injury or we’ve had players missing is that we say, ‘let’s turn this into a positive.'”
Against Michigan Tech, the Wolverines will try to avoid being shut out of the GLI final for the third straight season, something that has never happened under Berenson.
The Huskies enter the game winless in eight Western Collegiate Hockey Association games, although they did record two ties. Michigan Tech’s only two wins of the season came in noconference affairs against St. Lawrence and Wayne State, who sit near the bottom of the East Coast Athletic Conference and College Hockey America, respectively.
But the 10th-ranked Wolverines will not be at full strength because top scorer Dwight Helminen and offensive force Eric Nystrom will be playing in the World Junior Championships in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia. This will be the second straight year the two forwards represent the United States. But their absence will deplete an offense that struggled to put the puck in the net, when Michigan was swept by Northern Michigan last weekend.