WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOO! THE LAKERS WON THE GLI.

*deep breath*

Sorry, I had to get that out of my system. I’ve been flying high (mostly) since Monday evening, and needed to take some time before writing about my time in Detroit, and the GLI itself. 

WARNING: What follows attempts to be structured, but may look like word vomit. I am still excited, and just wanted to get my real feelings on this event out there.

Ever since the news came out that the Lakers were going to be playing at the GLI, and the final dates were set, I’ve been moving full speed ahead towards going to the game. Making sure my colleague at work would cover my on call, seeing who was all going, figuring out where to stay & how the hell to move around the city. But was it worth it.

First, let me say that I was really impressed with Detroit. The city was lovely as were the people. The food was good. The only bad thing I will say was the traffic a few of the nights, but I guess that can’t be helped.

As for the tournament: Having only been in 1 NHL stadium before (the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia), I was pretty impressed by Little Ceasers Arena. Mostly. From the road, it would be easy to miss that you have a stadium where it’s at, since the facade is made to look like a set of restaurants or bars from the street. Now, I understand that it’s not for everyone, but I thought it was a clever use of the space.

An aside: Despite the history of both the Red Wings and the Pistons, there was a distinct lack of memorabilia. Under some of the escalators featured some pieces, the store had a few, and they had the player statues from the Joe. But with the amount of dead space on the walls around the stadium, they could certainly add more, in much the same way as the Flyer had done.

ANYWAYS!

We made it to the stadium about halfway through the second period of the Michigan Tech-Michigan game, and it was very entertaining. It’s always fun to see former CCHA rivals in person, though we did see them earlier in the year. But despite it being a good game, lets face it, I wasn’t there for Tech or Michigan…I was there for our boys in blue.

Despite Michigan State being a much worse team (on paper at least), they certainly kept up with the Lakers, forcing overtime to make it that much more interesting. And until that overtime goal, I had been trying my best to not imagine the Lakers being in the final. My heart wouldn’t have been able to handle that kind of heartbreak.

But woo boy. Onto the all U.P Final.

The consolation game was all I ever wanted to see from a Michigan-Michigan State game, essentially a line  brawl, with a goalie thrown in the mix. Of course, not having a clear cut winner of the game was disappointing, but that would’ve delayed what we were there to see…

 

Lake Superior State University at Michigan Tech!

 

The Lakers certainly looked good out of the gate, but allowed the Huskies to come back and tie it up, both at 2-2. The Lakers would go on to get two more, going up 4-2 before the Huskies got to 4-3. Then the first open-net.

 

Then the second empty net with less than a minute. My eyes started to well up. They did it. The boys did it.

 

It was all I could do to keep from openly crying as that clock was counting down, and the final horn rang out. The guys jumping over the board, surrounding Kossoff, celebrating. Seeing the MTU officials come onto the ice with the trophy and banner, handing both to the captains. Seeing them lift the trophy as if it was Lord Stanley’s cup itself. Knowing that the name of our school will be hanging in the rafters for the next year warms my heart, and makes me tear up just a little bit.

You may be asking yourself why. Why get so emotional? But for anyone who has followed the Lakers for any time can attest: While some good players and teams have come and gone since the championship years of the early-mid 90’s, there really hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer for. Mediocre records, no real deep playoff runs, haven’t won a conference since 95 or 96, which was the last tournament appearance.

But the GLI is one of the most well known tournaments in college hockey. Especially here in the great state of Michigan. It’s something to be proud of, to be able to hold high and to not only win it, but to really dominate their in-conference opponent makes it even sweeter.

So I would like to thank the team for giving me a weekend I don’t think I’ll ever forget. And since I know this will get to him, and despite our differences, thank you too, Coach Whitten, for having this team come together to what many across college hockey thought was an impossible feat. And I hope that our athletic department does something special for this. Maybe blowing up the team photo, like the one seen above, and put it up somewhere in Abel Arena?

I don’t know how the rest of the season is going to go, and even if I had a crystal ball, I’m not sure I would want to know. But what I do know is that for the first time in a while, I am really excited for this team, and I think we have a real shot at doing something this season, at least within the WCHA. Maybe the NCAA tournament is a lofty goal, but it’s one I do hope to see.