So yesterday, we left off with last week’s big GLI championship victory, but the slightly more significant one happened in Mel Pearson’s second season: the first GLI Championship since 1980.
#6 – MTU wins 2012 Great Lakes Invitational
The more recent GLI title is fresher in our minds, but 2012 was special. It finally ended the streak of futility. It was only the third championship game appearance for the Huskies since streak of 15-straight title games ended in 1984. The Huskies just could not find a way to win twice in their own tournament, but in 2012, all that changed in convincing fashion. A pair of 4-0 wins over Michigan and Western Michigan would see “Michigan Tech” raised to the rafters in Joe Louis Arena one more time. Pheonix Copley would be named MVP after back to back shutouts and there was little doubt which team was the best that weekend. Copley was joined on the all-tournament team by Alex Petan, Jujhar Khaira and Steven Seigo. If only I had made the decision to attend the 2012 tournament instead of going in 2011.
#5 – Making the NCAA Tournament in 2015
Michigan Tech has a long history of being nationally relevant but that almost exclusively revolves around the tenure of legendary coach, John MacInnes. Al Renfrew helped lead the Huskies to their first NCAA tournament in 1956 and then proceeded to leave for North Dakota after the Huskies lost to Michgan 7-5. MacInnes led the Huskies to nine NCAA tournaments but the last appearance for Michigan Tech was 1981 where they finished third.
The drought finally ended in 2015 when the Huskies went 29-9-2 on their way to an at-large bid. They came up short in the WCHA Final Five, but finished 7th in the final Pairwise and received a #2 seed in the West Regional. If the final three minutes of regulation and overtime could have gone differently, that team was special. While the result in that regional is something most of want to forget, the 2014-2015 season was amazing in many ways including the next item on our list.
#4 – Being Ranked #1 in the Country in 2014
The polls are usually not something that matter, especially in hockey where Pairwise rules all, but on November 17, 2014 the Michigan Tech Huskies were voted #1 in the country. This was the first time in the existence of the USCHO poll that MTU was ranked #1. The last time they were #1 in any poll was 1976 in the WMPL poll, a year when they lost to the Gophers in the National Championship game.
That #1 ranking was a cool experience, but so was why they earned that ranking. The Huskies started the season 10-0 by sweeping LSSU, FSU and BSU on the road plus Michigan and UAA at home. That sweep of Michigan was a fantastic moment itself as it was the first trip to Houghton by the Wolverines since MTU left the CCHA in 1984.
#3 – Winning Sauer Trophy in Marquette, MI
The Sauer Trophy was a new creation for the 2018 WCHA playoffs as the league decided to retire the Broadmoor Trophy after the 2017 championship game. The connection to the Broadmoor never seemed quite right with Colorado College no longer in the league. The Huskies entered the playoffs as the fifth seed and a long shot to win the cup but they went on a fantastic run that I was lucky enough to see five of the six games in person thanks to them playing so close to home for me. It started with a matchup in Bemidji with the Beavers that were led by Michael Bitzer in net. The Beavers had allowed more than 2 goals in a game just 3 times since the middle of December, but the Huskies found a way to sweep scoring ten goals on the weekend.
The Huskies were rewarded with a trip to #1 seed Minnesota State (#3 in the PWR). Somehow the Huskies managed to win on both Saturday and Sunday night after losing Friday despite losing their preferred starter, Devin Kero, to an injury. Munson was sensational, allowing 3 goals on 75 shots in the final two games, which ended on a GWG goal from Jake Jackson in OT. But they weren’t finished yet.
Michigan Tech had to travel to Marquette for what is quite possibly the biggest game between the two rivals in their history. A championship game to decide which team would go to the NCAA tournament and it was was being played in Marquette. There was a ticketing scandal when NMU made the decision for the first time ever to only allow the sale of tickets in person at the box office and not to guarantee an allotment for the visiting Huskies. Overall, it worked out “ok” in the end, as there were still plenty of MTU fans in the stands, plus the Misfits and the pep band managed to get in. The game was tense as there were only two goals. Greyson Reitmeier scored almost halfway through the game while Joel L’Esperance added and empty net goal with under a minute left to clinch it (that was the last empty net goal for MTU until the 2019 GLI). The run the team went on over those 5 games was something special, culminating in a tremendous result in a hostile barn against their arch rivals.
#2 – Beating BGSU for Broadmoor in 2017
The 2017 playoff run was almost as special but it was all done at home. A sweep of the Lake Superior State Lakers in the first round and taking two of three from Minnesota State were both fun especially when none of the four wins were in much doubt at the end. Michigan Tech pretty much dominated their way to the championship game but that game was special. The change in playoff format really showed dividends right away with a sold out Mac and a great game between the Huskies and Bowling Green State.
For a single moment when a result was undeniable, I’m not sure if there is one better than #2 on the list. The game winning goal by Shane Hanna in overtime to clinch the WCHA title and the final ever winner of the Broadmoor Trophy has been memorialized more than once on our site. The shear joy of getting to win that game in front of a home crowd in sudden death OT is hard to top, but there is one thing left that has a special connection to Michigan Tech and Copper Country. One extra note: If it wasn’t for #9 on our list, this would be the longest game in MTU hockey history.
#1 – Winning the MacNaughton Cup in 2016
Michigan Tech are the trustees of the MacNaughton Cup. James MacNaughton, a resident of Calumet, purchased the cup in 1913 and eventually in 1951 it became the championship trophy of what would become the WCHA. From 1951 through today, it was been awarded to the regular season champion(s) of whatever conference Michigan Tech was a part of at the time (except for a short stint in the 1960s as a playoff champion trophy). The tradition of the trophy in the Copper Country makes it hold a special place in the hearts of fans throughout the area.
The Huskies had not won even a share of the trophy since 1976, but in 2016 that changed. Michigan Tech finished the WCHA season 18-7-3 with 39 points, tied with Minnesota State for the championship and a share of the cup after winning their last five games while the Mavericks went 3-1-1 over the same stretch including losing on the last day of the regular season.
To circle back to #10 on this list. Many people might not like calling out the hiring of Mel Pearson, but he was an integral part of seven of the other nine items on the list. He brought Michigan Tech respect on so many levels. I won’t forgive him for the way he left or the mess he left behind for his replacement to handle, but it’s hard to deny what he did from winning a GLI, getting the team ranked #1 in the country, making the NCAA tournament twice, winning the Broadmoor Trophy for the first (and last) time and bringing home the MacNaughton Cup.