DETROIT, Mich. - Senior Ryan Furne scored a sudden death shootout goal to lift Michigan Tech over Michigan State in the opening game of 49th Great Lakes Invitational played outdoors at Comerica Park today. The Huskies and Spartans finished 65 minutes of play deadlocked at 2-2, but Tech won the shootout 2-1 to advance to the championship.
The Huskies will now have a chance at their first back-to-back GLI titles since 1979-80.
"It's huge," said head coach Mel Pearson about the chance for another GLI Championship. "Not just for our team, but also for our alumni and fans. We have a great fan base here in southeastern Michigan. I've been involved in the GLI for 33 years, and I've always noticed the fan support Michigan Tech gets."
Sunshine and temperatures in the upper 30s made it a unique setting for the players and fans at Comerica Park, home to Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers.
Pheonix Copley seemed to have no trouble looking into a setting sun in the opening period and waning daylight in the second. He extended his streak of shutout periods in GLI play to eight by stopping 11 shots in the first 40 minutes today.
Jacob Johnstone staked the Black and Gold to a 1-0 lead midway through the second period as Blake Hietala centered a pass through the crease to Johnstone who buried his shot into a wide open net. It was Johnstone's first goal of the season and Hietala's 10th point of 2013-14.
The Spartans broke up the shutout just 52 seconds into the third period with a power-play tally. A shot by Jake Chelios from the left point rebounded right to the stick of Matt Berry who scored.
Little more than three minutes later, Michigan State had its first lead. Ryan Keller redirected a shot past Copley.
Tech bounced back quickly, however. Team scoring leader Alex Petan added to his total with a drive from the slot after Mike Neville sent it out from behind the net. Petan's 10th goal of the season beat Jake Hildebrand top left corner.
The squads skated through the remaining 11:47 of regulation scoreless despite clean breakaway attempts from Tech's Neville and Chris Leibinger and a Spartan power play.
Neither team created a grade A chance in the five-minute overtime, causing the game to officially end in a tie.
A three-player shootout was used to decide which team advanced to the title game. The shootout was scoreless after two rounds as Tyler Heinonen and Petan were stopped on their chances. Villiam Haag gave MSU a 1-0 lead in the third round, putting pressure on Tanner Kero to keep the game alive. The assistant captain scored with a short shot blocker side to send the shootout to sudden death.
In the fourth round, Copley stopped Brent Darnell and Blake Pietila missed his chance.
Copley came up big again in the fifth round, halting Greg Wolfe and setting up Furne's game winner. The winger pulled the puck to his forehand and found a gap between Hildebrand's toe and the goalpost.
"I watched the previous shooters in the shootout and saw that the goalie came out pretty far," said Furne, playing in his fourth GLI. "I knew I couldn't shoot, so I put a deke on, and it worked out for us."
Tech held a 43-26 advantage in shots on goal including an incredible 20-5 margin in the second period.
Hildebrand stopped 41 shots during game play.
"We didn't score on our best opportunities tonight, and that's plagued us a little bit this year," said Pearson. "But in a setting like this with the ice conditions the way they are, you're not going to get a lot of great goals. You have to get to the net and get a bounce or a break, and we did that."
The official result of a draw moved Michigan Tech's record to 6-9-6. The Huskies have four ties in the last five games.
Michigan Tech will vie for its second consecutive GLI title tomorrow vs. Western Michigan in a rematch of the 2012 championship game.