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Huskies top Spartans, advance to GLI Championship Game

The Michigan Tech Huskies opened the 53rd annual Great Lakes Invitational at Little Caesars Arena with a 5-2 victory over the Michigan State Spartans on Monday (Jan. 1) in Detroit.

MTU sophomore goaltender Robbie Beydoun made 29 stops in the victory for the Huskies, while senior forward Alex Gillies had the game-winning goal to go with an assist.

The Huskies circled in the opening 11 minutes like sharks in bloody water, chummed by the turnovers the Spartans made on their own half of the ice. Despite the action favoring the gold and black, it was Michigan State who cashed in on the lowest percentage chance of the period.

An errant Spartan shot forced Beydoun to dive left to right. When the shot rimmed back to the top of the right wing circle, MSU junior defenseman Zach Osburn fired a shot from against the right wing wall at the hash marks that hit Beydoun’s left toe as he dove back into the net. It snuck in for a 1-0 Spartan lead at 19:16 of the first.

“My comment to him after the game was if we can get you to the point where we can get you to not allow any goals on non-grade A shots,” Michigan Tech Head Coach Joe Shawhan joked, “But he’s much better than I was.”

Freshman forward David Keefer and sophomore defensemen Jerad Rosburg picked up assists on Osburn’s first goal of the season, as the Spartans took a 1-0 lead into the second frame.

The lead was short-lived as the Huskies erupted in the first five and half minutes of the middle frame.

While the Spartans opened the second period cycling down low in the Husky end, a rush by senior forward and captain Brent Baltus and sophomore forward Alex Smith yielded the equalizer.

Smith dropped it to Baltus at the Spartan blue line, and Baltus went wide left before centering it off of Smith’s foot and past MSU sophomore goaltender John Lethemon for a 1-1 tie at 2:04 of the second period.

Baltus and junior defenseman Dane Birks (Pittsburgh Penguins) picked up assists on Smith’s fifth goal of the season.

1:15 later, the Huskies pulled ahead when junior forward Jake Lucchini took a rip from the top of the left wing circle that beat Lethemon cleanly over the glove for a 2-1 MTU lead. Gillies and sophomore defenseman Mitch Reinke earned assists on the goal.

Lucchini factored in 2:07 later when his pass from the bottom of the left wing circle found Gillies wide open in front, where the senior backhanded it past Lethemon for a 3-1 Huskies lead. Sophomore forward Gavin Gould also had an assist on the goal by Gillies.

“We got a little bit away from our game there,” MSU senior defenseman Carson Gatt said. “We broke down a bit defensively, that stuff’s gonna happen in a game, but we had a power play chance down 3-2 to tie it. There was no quit.”

The Spartans went on the aforementioned power play moments after the Gillies goal, but sophomore forward Patrick Khodorenko had a shot from three feet in front of the right post, only to be denied as Beydoun dove and got a loose hand on the shot.

“I had an open net and the goalie just made a phenomenal save,” Khodorenko said.

Khodorenko got a chance to redeem himself later in the period and did so spectacularly.

In four-on-four play, MSU sophomore forward Taro Hirose started a two-on-two rush and cut to the middle, dropping a pass to Khodorenko at the top of the right wing circle. Khodorenko rifled a shot over Beydoun’s glove, off the underside of the crossbar for his seventh goal of the year to pull the Spartans back within one, 3-2, at 18:33 of the second period.

Michigan State had a power play, but gave up a penalty shot (a miss by MTU’s Dylan Steman) and missed the net with three shots on good looks.

The Huskies pounced, as Gavin Gould put it away with 4:54 to play on an aggressive forecheck behind the Spartan goal.

Gould forced his man out left of the goal, where Alex Smith poked it free. Gould pushed the puck beneath Lethemon for his seventh of the season and a 4-2 MTU lead.

Michigan Tech added on the empty-netter at 19:39 when junior forward Jake Jackson scored his ninth of the season unassisted.

Lethemon took the loss, making 27 saves for the Spartans.

In a wide open officiated game, the two teams combined for just five total power plays. The Spartans went 1-3, while the Huskies went 0-2 on the man advantage.

As for the potential of playing against their former Head Coach Mel Pearson and his Michigan Wolverines in the GLI Championship game? The Huskies want it.

“I want them to win,” Lucchini said. “I think everybody north of the bridge wants it,” Shawhan said.


Written by Harrison Watt

College Hockey Broadcaster
Ferris State Grad

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