In conjunction with the Winter Classic, which will be held at The Big House in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day, the city of Detroit built a second outdoor hockey rink at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, for a series of additional outdoor games and festivities. With AHL and OHL games also scheduled to take place in the coming days leading up to the Winter Classic finale, some of the first outdoor hockey was played on the Comerica rink yesterday as the Great Lakes Invitational (GLI) got underway with contests between Michigan State University and Michigan Tech, and the University of Michigan and Western Michigan University.
The GLI is an annual college hockey tournament hosted by Michigan Tech and the University of Michigan. Two additional schools are selected annually to compete in the four-game tournament, with Michigan State usually occupying the third spot. Ferris State University, Northern Michigan University, Colorado College, Harvard, Boston University and Maine have all previously been invited to play at the event.
Yesterday’s contests at Comerica Park set the stage for a championship game between Michigan Tech, the defending champions, and Western Michigan University. Michigan and Michigan State will play for third place this afternoon.
Michigan Tech was able to fend off a comeback from Michigan State during yesterday’s preliminary game that ended up going into a shootout. Ryan Furne scored the game-winning goal in the fifth round of the skills contest, giving Michigan Tech a 302 victory.
Western Michigan completed the upset against third-ranked Michigan when Bronco’s forward Josh Pitt took the puck nearly end-to-end and dangled through the Michigan defense with a nifty flip pass to himself to roof a breakaway shot over Michigan goaltender Zach Nagelvoort in overtime. Making the move more incredible was the so-so ice conditions, making it difficult to move the pack and make crisp passes. Players throughout both games were consistently whiffing on passes and shots as the puck bounced off their sticks.
Ice conditions will certainly be a factor in today’s games as well, with the high temperature in Detroit expected to reach nearly 40 degrees. The consolation game between Michigan and Michigan State will take place at 3:00 p.m. The championship game between Michigan Tech and Western Michigan will follow at 7:00 p.m.
Check out video of Pitt’s awesome breakaway goal below.