Though no player on the roster has ever faced No. 3 Boston College before, the Michigan hockey team might think of the Eagles as a familiar foe.

After all, the Wolverines have heard plenty about their first-round opponent in the 47th annual Great Lakes Invitational — almost as much as they have heard Michigan coach Red Berenson talk about how the tournament can define their season, or at the very least the second half of the season.

“(The GLI has) been a tradition around Michigan to start off the second half of the year,” Berenson said during a conference call Tuesday. “How we do in the GLI seems to reflect in our season-end run, either good or bad.”

In preparation, Michigan began skating twice-a-day after the two-week holiday hiatus. But according to fifth-year goaltender Shawn Hunwick, hockey was never far from his teammates’ thoughts over break.

“You’ve got a lot of Detroit-area kids (on the team) that are excited to play (at Joe Louis Arena),” Hunwick said Tuesday.

The Wolverines enter the four-team event as defending champions. In fact, the GLI’s trophy has stayed in Ann Arbor for three of the past four years. In the 2011 final, Michigan defeated Colorado College, 6-5, and now-senior forward Luke Glendening was named tournament MVP.

But in this year’s edition of the GLI, one of college hockey’s most prestigious events, the field is noticeably deeper. All four teams enter the tournament at .500 or better. And with the Wolverines drawing Boston College (9-4 Hockey East, 12-6 overall) in Thursday’s nightcap semifinal, a repeat performance will not be easy for the team.

“I think anyone is capable of winning this (tournament),” Berenson said. “Our team might be the underdog of the four teams this year.”

To beat those odds, the Wolverines will need to play virtually mistake-free hockey against the Eagles. Boston College will be the highest-ranked team Michigan has encountered so far this season, and, arguably, the most talented, too.

“(The Eagles are) really good offensively and they play really hard,” Berenson said. “They’re usually fast and on the small side up front. They have a lot of skilled, fast forwards. And they expect to win every night.”

That expectation of winning every night is one that has eluded the Wolverines in the first half of the season. Michigan has completed just two series sweeps so far — a non-conference tune-up over Bentley and an early sweep of CCHA opponent Ferris State. At 9-8-3, the Wolverines are struggling to keep their heads above water, making the next few weeks — the GLI and upcoming conference series against Lake Superior State, Ohio State and Notre Dame — all the more crucial.

“We’re not coaching to be a .500 team,” Berenson said. “This is Michigan and we’ve got to get better than that. “

Michigan Tech and Michigan State will meet Thursday afternoon in the other semifinal. The consolation game will be Friday afternoon, and the two winners will meet in Friday night’s championship game.

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