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FINAL: Special teams rears back its ugly head, MSU hockey falls in first round of GLI

December 29, 2016
Redshirt freshman defenseman Jerad Rosburg (57) collides with Western Michigan wingman Frederik Tiffels (19) in the first period of the 52nd Annual Great Lakes Invitational semifinal game against Western Michigan during the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29, 2016 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Redshirt freshman defenseman Jerad Rosburg (57) collides with Western Michigan wingman Frederik Tiffels (19) in the first period of the 52nd Annual Great Lakes Invitational semifinal game against Western Michigan during the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29, 2016 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Under the countless banners hanging from the rafts along with the 'Hockeytown' moniker etched into center ice, historic Joe Louis Arena was the site of the 52nd edition of the Great Lakes Invitational, or GLI. The MSU hockey team graced the rink as the icers faced off against No. 16 Western Michigan, ultimately falling to the Broncos in a blowout, 4-1.

The Spartans brought an all-time record of 88-62-7 at the Joe to the matchup against the Broncos. Throughout the years, MSU captured 23 championships in the building, including 12 GLI crowns, but will fail in its quest for No. 13 in program history.

The green and white skaters were looking to bounce back after a blowout loss to Northeastern last time out, with the chance to notch a win against a ranked team.

Beginning the contest, the Spartans came out swinging, generating scoring chances to pressure the Broncos. At one point, senior forward Thomas Ebbing made a great move to free himself and the puck, but the subsequent shot on goal hit the post. Upon further review, it was ruled a no goal to preserve the scoreless duel.

In the Broncos' defensive zone, freshman goaltender Ben Blacker made numerous huge saves to deny the Spartans from gaining momentum.

The difference in the match, though, came on special teams as the Spartans faltered while the Broncos shined. MSU was unable to convert on its two power play opportunities of the period, the opposite held true for their foes.

The first goal of the match came courtesy of forward Jade McMullen, just a mere seven seconds into the Broncos' first power play opportunity of the night.

In similar fashion, Western Michigan again capitalized early on in its third power play chance. Senior Sheldon Dries snuck the puck just under junior goaltender Ed Minney to aid the Broncos' cause.

Following the first 20 minutes of play, the Broncos took the multi-goal lead to the locker room. As the second period was underway, they would continue to add to the Spartans' growing deficit.

Special teams continued to rear its ugly head and haunt MSU, with forward Griffen Molino making it a 3-0 game, coincidentally again 15 seconds into the Broncos power play.

With the Spartans staring at a sizable gap, a momentum shift swung when forward Corey Schueneman was called for a game misconduct and a five-minute major penalty. MSU finally capitalized on the power play when sophomore forward Mason Appleton netted a wrist-shot from the right circle to cut the lead, 3-1.

While MSU finally got on the board, a questionable play by fifth-year senior Rhett Holland ultimately led to a tripping penalty. Coupled with the Broncos already red-hot from the man-advantage, they took back the little momentum MSU had with sophomore forward Matheson Iacopelli restoring the three-goal lead.

In the third and final period, neither team made so much as a whisper besides the jawing between game play. The scoreless period eventually led to the Spartans' downfall, falling to the Broncos, 4-1.

While the shots were evenly matched up, 31-30, special teams told the story of this match. Western Michigan finished 4-for-7 on their man-advance chances while MSU ended with a dismal 1-for-9 conversion rate.

The Spartans dropped their fourth straight game after a promising series against then-No. 5 North Dakota. MSU will look to right the ship against in-state rival University of Michigan in the third place game again at the Joe. The match is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Detroit.

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