U-M coach Pearson has been GLI fixture for more than 40 years
Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson: “Being an alumnus (of Michigan Tech), I hope they win all their games, except for when they play us.”
If the Great Lakes Invitational is a tradition, Mel Pearson’s participation in College Hockey’s oldest tournament is only slightly less of one.
When the puck drops on Sunday a few minutes past 1 p.m. for the opening faceoff of the 54th annual GLI at Little Caesars Arena, it will mark more than four decades that the Michigan coach has been a tournament participant.
Michigan faces Michigan Tech in that opening game, with Michigan State playing Lake Superior State in the second game at 4 p.m. The two losers meet in the third-place game at 11:30 a.m. Monday (New Year’s Eve). The championship game is at 2:30 p.m.
"I have had the privilege to be associated with the Great Lakes Invitational for 41 years as a player, assistant coach and head coach," said Pearson, who played for tournament host Michigan Tech from 1977-1981.
He was part of four consecutive GLI championship teams and his goal 2:28 into the third overtime gave the Huskies a 5-4 win over the Wolverines in the championship game of the 1979 tournament, which still stands as the longest contest in GLI history
Pearson was an assistant at MTU from 1981 until 1988, when he moved south to Ann Arbor to assume the same role – under Red Berenson – until 1999, when Pearson became U-M’s associate head coach.
Michigan won 12 GLI titles with Pearson as an assistant or associate head coach. He returned to his alma mater in Houghton to take over as head coach of the Huskies for the 2011-12 season, during which he led Michigan Tech to the GLI championship.
Pearson remained at MTU until 2017-18, when he became Berenson’s successor as Michigan’s head coach.
So Sunday’s semifinal will represent the only two places that Pearson, 59, has ever worked.
“Being an alumnus, I hope they (MTU) win all their games, except for when they play us,” he told the Michigan Daily. “I’m sure there’ll be some formalities and some 'hellos' and all that, but when the game starts, we have to find a way to beat them.”
The Wolverines (6-7-4) will be without two of its stars, sophomore defenseman Quinn Hughes and sophomore forward Josh Norris (Oxford), who are playing for Team USA in the World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.
“We’re gonna be without two extremely good players, arguably our two best players and two of the best players in College Hockey,” Pearson said. “It’s a great opportunity for someone else to step in and take over those minutes. I know we have some guys anxious and looking forward to doing that.”
Michigan Tech (10-7-1) is coached by Joe Shawhan, who was an assistant at Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan.
Michigan State (6-9-1) is led by second-year coach and Spartan alum Danton Cole, a Pontiac native. At the helm of the Lake Superior State (9-6-1) program is Brighton native Damon Whitten, who played at Michigan State and is a former Michigan Tech assistant.
There will be three hockey games at Little Caesars Arena on Monday.
After the GLI third-place game (11:30 a.m.) and championship game (2:30 p.m.), the Red Wings will play their annual New Year’s Eve game, against the Florida Panthers, at 7:30 p.m.