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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Great Lakes Invitational Preview

The 42nd annual Great Lakes Invitational gets underway this weekend at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Mainstays Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech welcome Harvard as the invite school in this edition of the GLI. Last year's invite, Colorado College, won the tournament championship, while Michigan State took the crown in 2004 and Boston College in 2003.

Below are capsule profiles of the four schools that hit the ice Friday. Harvard and Michigan State hook-up at 4:35 p.m. and Michigan and Michigan Tech tangle at 8:05 p.m. The consolation and championship games go Saturday.

HARVARD CRIMSON (ECACHL)
4-9-0 overall, 3-7-0 ECACHL
Top scorers: Freshman forward Doug Rogers (3-7-10), senior center Kevin Du (2-8-10) and freshman defenseman Alex Biega (4-5-9) are the top three point getters for Harvard, while senior forward Ryan Maki leads the team with five goals.
Goaltending: Senior Justin Tobe (3-5-0, 2.57 GAA, .893 SV %) and freshman Kyle Richter (1-4-0, 3.38 GAA, .891 SV %) shoulder the load in the Crimson net. Richter also has Harvard's lone shutout this season, a 4-0 blanking of Boston College back on Nov. 7.
Quick fact: Harvard is 2-4-0 in their last six games, but has only been outscored by a 19-14 margin in that span.
Captain: Senior defenseman Dylan Reese
Michigan connections: Maki (Shelby Township), Tobe (Northville) and sophomore forward Jimmy Fraser (Port Huron) are all Michigan natives. Fraser won't play this weekend as he's in Sweden with the United States National Junior Team. Tobe is a former Michigan State Spartan and spent the first semester of the 2002-2003 season in East Lansing as a 17-year-old. Assistant coach Bobby Jay played for the now-defunct Detroit Vipers of the old IHL in the 1990s.

#11 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (CCHA)
12-7-0 overall, 8-5-0 CCHA
Top scorers: Senior forward T.J. Hensick is third in the nation with 33 points (7-26) and four forwards - juniors Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik, sophomore Andrew Cogliano (with Team Canada at World Juniors) and senior David Rohlfs - all have more than 10 goals. Sophomore defender Jack Johnson leads all U-M blueliners with 13 points, but will be MIA as he's in Sweden with Team USA as well.
Goaltending: Billy Sauer has 11 of the Wolverines' 12 wins, but has been shaky lately. The sophomore also has a sub par 3.54 GAA and .884 SV %. Frosh backup Steve Jakiel has seen action in just 95 minutes thus far.
Quick fact: Michigan hasn't won the GLI since 1996 when they upended Lake Superior State in the finals, and finished off a string of nine straight GLI tournament wins.
Captain: Senior defenseman Matt Hunwick
Michigan connections: Hensick (Howell), Porter (Northville), Rohlfs (Northville), Johnson (Ann Arbor), Hunwick (Roseville), freshman forwards Anthony Ciraulo (Clinton Township) and Eric Elmblad (St. Ignace), freshman defensemen Steven Kampfer (Jackson) and Chris Summers (Milan), sophomore forwards Danny Fardig (Ann Arbor), Brandon Naurato (Livonia), Chris Fragner (Ann Arbor) and Tim Miller (Davisburg), sophomore defensemen Mark Mitera (Livonia) and Jon Montville (Novi) and senior defenseman Jason Dest (Fraser) all call Michigan home.

#14 MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (CCHA)
9-7-1 overall, 7-5-1 CCHA
Top scorers: Second-year forward Tim Kennedy is the lone Spartan in double-digit goals (11) and also leads the team with 19 points. Junior forwards Bryan Lerg (9-5-14) and Chris Mueller (7-6-13) are also relied upon for scoring punch.
Goaltending: Pint-size sophomore Jeff Lerg has played all but 50 minutes this year and is 9-7-1 with a 2.78 GAA and a .895 SV %. He took over the No. 1 role midway through last season and was one of the reasons Dominic Vicari left MSU to sign a minor-league contract with the ECHL's Toledo Storm.
Quick fact: A dozen skaters remain from MSU's 2004 GLI title.
Captain: Senior forward Chris Lawrence
Michigan connections: The Lerg cousins (Livonia), freshman defensemen Justin Johnston (Grosse Pointe Woods) and Ryan Turek (Northville), sophomore forwards Kurt Kivisto (Milford), Matt Schepke (Warren), Matt Shouneyia (Bloomfield Hills) and Justin Abdelkader (Muskegon, away at World Juniors), sophomore defenseman Brandon Gentile (Clarkston) and sophomore goalie Steve Mnich (Northville) and junior forward Zak McClellan (Frankenmuth) are the home-state Spartans. Schepke also played with MTU in 2004.

MICHIGAN TECH HUSKIES (WCHA)
8-8-2 overall, 5-7-2 WCHA
Top scorers: Scoring has been balanced as every player, except for the two goalies and sophomore forward Mike Van Wagner, has recorded at least a point. Junior right wing Jimmy Kerr leads the way with a 5-7-12 line and senior center Tyler Skworchinski (5-5-10) and sophomore wing Alex Gagne (3-7-10) are also in double digits.
Goaltending: The sophomore rotation of Rob Nolan (5-4-1, 2.13 GAA and .912 SV%) and Michael-Lee Teslak (3-4-1, 2.16 GAA and .899 SV%) has been consistent for the Huskies this season.
Quick fact: The Huskies have an even longer drought than U-M; Michigan Tech last won the GLI in 1980. They were runners-up in 2000 after losing to MSU.
Co-captains: Senior forward Mike Batovanja and senior defenseman Lars Helminen
Michigan connections: Just a handful - Helminen (Brighton), Van Wagner (Traverse City), sophomore wing Derek Kitti (Laurium) and junior center Peter Rouleau (Hancock). Gargantuan (6-6, 230) freshman forward Phil Axtell played midget hockey with the Marquette Electricians from 2002-2004.

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