DETROIT — With the National Hockey League locked out from play, the Joe Louis Arena found it’s life again Saturday night with a history-making game at the The Great Lakes Invitational.
The Great Lakes Invitational, or GLI, kicked off with the MSU (5-10-3 overall, 4-8-1-0 CCHA) and Western Michigan (11-4-2 overall, 8-3-1-1 CCHA) hockey programs, the Broncos besting the Spartans in a shootout.
In the 48 years the GLI has been played, this game was the first to end in a shootout. Freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand called the experience “unbelievable.”
Despite Western Michigan’s shootout win, the game counts as a tie for both teams in their overall records.
“We had some scoring chances, but it was definitely hard to get things going,” sophomore forward Matt Berry said. “They were really sound defensively, and it took a lot to get any shot on net or any chance in front.”
Western Michigan picked up a goal in the first period — the only goal of the game until the game clock hit 16 seconds in the third.
The matchup appeared to be finished until MSU junior forward Lee Reimer battled in the far corner and got the puck to Berry in front of the net, who buried it behind Western Michigan’s goaltender Frank Slubowski.
The Spartans had the momentum heading into the five minute overtime period until Hildebrand tripped up a Western Michigan player, giving the Broncos a two-minute advantage.
“I don’t like undisciplined penalties,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “I don’t mind penalties out of aggression or penalties that you have to take because you have to. (Hildebrand’s) was a penalty that I thought we retaliated. Our goalie got bumped or felt he got bumped and he retaliated. It takes you out of your rhythm.”
MSU managed to kill the penalty, bringing the penalty kill count to fifteen straight, but was unable to generate enough offense to complete the comeback.
Heading into the shootout, Hildebrand and Slubowski both took their respective nets, denying seven straight shots.
Western Michigan’s Mike Leone was the straw that broke the camel’s back, skating in straight toward Hildebrand and burying the puck in the upper corner.
“They’re a really good team, very skilled team,” Hildebrand said of Western Michigan. “They like to go to the front of the net — throw pucks on net — so you just have to keep battling, keep competing.”
Both teams went scoreless on the power play throughout the game, MSU going 0-for-3 and Western Michigan going 0-for-5.
Heading into Sunday’s game against the loser of the Michigan-Michigan Tech game, Anastos said he is pleased with the hard competition the Spartans displayed.
“I keep looking at our team maybe different than other people; I look at our team as a process,” he said. “We have a lot of young players. Look at all the younger players and the experience they gained tonight. It’s another team that we played that’s ranked high … I like the progress that we’re making.”