For the holidays, the CCHA was in a giving mood: the teams were giving reasons to believe that the CCHA is quite possibly the strongest conference in college hockey.
The Great Lakes Invitational was decided by a showdown between two CCHA rivals, Lake State gave Wisconsin all they could handle in the Badger Showdown, Ohio State took control of the Ohio Hockey Classic, and Notre Dame was crowned a winner in the Shillelagh Tournament.
Michigan and Michigan State both showed up and played well in the Great Lakes Invitational. Michigan was led by the stellar goaltending of Bryan Hogan in their first game against Michigan Tech. Hogan stopped 15 shots to earn the shutout, while Louie Caporusso continued his torrent goal scoring run by netting a natural hat trick in the first period.
Michigan State had a tougher task in their first game with North Dakota. Jeff Lerg played like a goaltender who led his team to a national championship before. He stopped 38 shots to hold off the Fighting Sioux en route to a 2-1 victory. Matt Schepke recorded both Spartan goals.
It was a familiar rivalry that added fuel to the fire in the GLI Championship game. Schepke scored on a five-on-three power play to give the Spartans the first lead of the game. Michigan stood their ground, answering less than four minutes later with a goal from Travis Turnbull.
The second period was all Michigan. They out-shot the dazed Spartans 20-3 and scored three goals in the frame to make it a 4-1 game after two periods. Caporusso added a little insurance in the third period to seal the deal to a 5-1 victory and a GLI Championship.
Lake Superior State surprised Harvard in game one of the Badger Showdown. They chased Harvard goaltender Matt Hoyle during the second period after he gave up five goals on 17 shots. The Lakers had five different goal scorers and were led by Troy Schwab’s four points, while Zac MacVoy and Josh Sim each recorded three points.
The Badger Showdown Championship game between Wisconsin and Lake State was a back-and-forth game that came down to the wire. Lake State broke the tie with 3:36 to go in the third period with a goal from MacVoy. With a 1:43 left in the game, Wisconsin’s John Mitchell tied the game. Wisconsin decided the game in a shootout, winning the Badger Showdown on their home ice in front of a crowd of 13,422.
Ohio State hosted the Ohio Hockey Classic and they did not disappoint the hometown fans. The Buckeyes had few problems with Army en route to a 6-1 victory. Corey Elkins had three points for the Buckeyes in the win.
Clarkson beat Miami (Ohio) 4-2 in order to get face off against the Buckeyes. Both teams came in with a ton of momentum, but Ohio State had their sixth man and they were able to outlast Clarkson. Hunter Bishop scored in the first period and Ohio State never looked back. Dustin Carlson earned the shutout after stopping 24 shots.
Notre Dame traveled to Illinois to take on Union in the Shillelagh Tournament. Union’s Brendan Milnamow beat Jordan Pearce on the power play with less than two minutes to go in the opening period. Notre Dame climbed out of the hole and knotted up the score when Justin White scored 2:49 into the second period. Ben Ryan found the back of the net for Notre Dame about ten minutes later, giving Notre Dame a 2-1 lead and enough momentum to finish off Union. Dan Kissel added a power play goal in the third period to ice the game at 3-1.
In the finale of the Shillelagh Tournament, Notre Dame battled Minnesota-Duluth. Notre Dame jumped out early with a goal from Garrett Regan 1:44 into the game. Regan struck again in the period to give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead. Minnesota-Duluth began to threaten with a late second period goal from Drew Akins. Ryan Thang added the empty netter to wrap up the game, and the Shillelagh Tournament Championship.
The CCHA came out on top of three holiday tournaments and was the runner up in two. They played hard-nosed hockey and battled out until the very end. The CCHA gained much deserved respect throughout the holiday season with wins against top teams such as North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth. Even though the holiday season has come and gone, the CCHA will continue to give until the last second of the last game.