Detroit — Coming into the Great Lakes Invitational, junior defenseman Jeff Petry was a known commodity for the MSU hockey team.
Sophomore forward Brett Perlini, however, was not.
But when the final buzzer sounded to signal MSU’s dominant GLI championship win Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena, both players were on the forefront of everybody’s minds because of their stellar play during the two-day tournament.
Perlini was named tournament MVP after posting three goals and two assists, his first five points of the season.
“When I recruited him I think people really wondered why,” MSU head coach Rick Comley said. “He had to learn to play, as far as playing without the puck. Last year he got thrown into it when he wasn’t perhaps ready and struggled and you lose confidence. He can shoot. He shoots the puck as well as anybody on our team. Hopefully this is just the beginning of his offensive career.”
Petry was named to the All-Tournament team and was another serious candidate for tournament MVP for his performance that saw him post a goal and an assist with a plus-6 rating – not to mention his suffocating defensive play both nights.
RPI head coach Seth Appert said Petry showed why he is one of the best defensemen in the country with his performance during the two-day tournament.
“I thought he was special,” Appert said.
“He’s evolved into a dominant defenseman. He’s very good offensively, he moves the puck and he has great anticipation skills.”
And it was Petry who “put the nail” in RPI’s coffin, according to Appert, when he jumped into the play at center ice and intercepted a pass and went in on a 2-on-1 with junior forward Corey Tropp. Petry scored off a rebound with 32.8 seconds left in the second period to give MSU a 4-1 lead.
Comley, who sees Petry play nearly everyday, said the Edmonton Oilers second round draft pick has made big strides defensively.
“He’s played really well,” Comley said. “He struggled last year, it was tough for him. I thought he came back and was good mentally and fresh. Every team we play against, what they talk about is him. He can swing the game.”
For Perlini, the thought of being named GLI MVP never crossed his mind as he came back to campus following Christmas. After all, he’d only played two games prior to coming to Detroit.
“I was just working to try and stay in the lineup,” Perlini said. “But a couple good bounces and here I am. I think the hard work has paid off and I look to keep going from here.”
Now, following his five-point outburst, Perlini is no longer an afterthought when it comes to the lineup.
Sophomore goaltender Drew Palmisano came to MSU in the same recruiting class as Perlini, so he’s shared many of the same experiences. He can’t say enough about Perlini.
“He works hard everyday,” Palmisano said. “He didn’t get every break he deserves so far. Then this weekend was just a breakout weekend for him. Hopefully he can keep it up.”
When the final numbers are examined on the surface, it comes as no surprise that MSU chased both Michigan Tech and RPI’s starting goaltenders during its dominant run through the Great Lakes Invitational.
The Spartans outscored the Huskies by nine goals Tuesday and the Engineers by five goals Wednesday. But both Michigan Tech and RPI pulled their goalies in the first period after MSU’s second goal of the night
When Michigan Tech pulled Kevin Genoe after 12:31, it was because he gave up a bad goal. Appert yanked Bryce Merriam after 14:28 because he didn’t like the way his team was playing.
It was an interesting decision to start Merriam in the first place. Allen York, who relieved Merriam on Wednesday, stood on his head in RPI’s 4-3 win against Michigan on Tuesday, making 43 saves.
“It certainly looks like a backfire now,” Appert said. “I thought Bryce should’ve had and normally would’ve had those first two goals, but he also played pretty good in the first 10 minutes of that game. It was our team play that was putting us in trouble.”
But Appert’s reasoning behind going with Merriam stemmed from York’s workload against the Wolverines.
“Allen faced a lot of shots and a lot of attack time last night, especially when you’re coming off a two week break,” Appert said. “Allen’s probably not quite in game-shape after that two week break anyway. I was worried a little bit about fatigue for him tonight, so that’s why I went with Bryce and it certainly didn’t look like the best decision, but at the same time, I have a lot of belief in Bryce and he’s going to be a good goaltender for us in the future.”
U-M defeated Michigan Tech 5-3 in the tournament’s third-place game.
The Wolverines rebounded from Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to RPI against the Huskies, but it wasn’t easy.
After its embarrassing 10-1 loss to MSU, Michigan Tech kept it close until the final whistle against the Wolverines, as U-M needed an empty-net goal to seal the game late.
The Wolverines outshot the Huskies 44-23.