After watching the Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena year after year, Mackenzie MacEachern will attend the annual tournament once again in 2013.
But this year, the Troy, Michigan native won’t be watching from the stands. He’ll be on the ice, skating alongside his Spartans teammates as Michigan State takes on Michigan Tech in the opening round of the GLI at Comerica Park’s spectacular outdoor venue.
“It’s definitely really exciting,” MacEachern said of the tournament. “Growing up I always watched the GLI, always watched at the Joe Louis and it’s even cooler to be outside this year so I’m really excited to play in front of my family and friends.”
The Michigan State freshman will have a number of family members at the ballpark, cheering for their son, brother and cousin who has experienced immediate success wearing Green and White.
“Each day he seems to be getting better and better,” MSU coach Tom Anastos said. “But it’s his consistency, and his work habits and his competitive level have really been what’s allowed him to gain confidence. So he’s a very skilled kid, oftentimes you gotta teach guys the kind of work habits and compete level it takes at this level and I think that was good for him to be able to start with good work habits and compete level and he already has a nice skill set so that’s all allowed him to make an immediate impact.”
But success is nothing new to MacEachern. As a senior at Brother Rice High School in suburban Detroit, the forward recorded 90 points, leading his team to the Division 2 state championship in 2011-12. After the impressive senior year campaign, MacEachern was named Mr. Hockey and was a third-round selection of the St. Louis Blues at the 2012 NHL draft.
MacEachern played for the USHL’s Chicago Steel after graduating from Brother Rice, notching eight goals and 13 assists in 50 games, but was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms during the season. He spent one year in the Windy City before joining the Spartans, and his dedication during the offseason helped him transition smoothly into the college game.
“I knew coming into the college game it’d be a lot stronger because there are a lot older guys,” MacEachern said. “So I took a month or so off of skating, just trying to focus on my strength and I’m assuming that helped a lot especially because I came off my concussion a little bit scared to end the year last year so I was trying to overcome that as well and it’s definitely helped a lot this year.”
Through 14 games with Michigan State this season, MacEachern was tied for second on the team with nine points, and his six goals ranked second only to senior Greg Wolfe’s seven. Joining a young Spartans team going through transition, MacEachern has been able to make an immediate impact by taking advantage of every opportunity he earns on the ice.
“He worked real hard this offseason and I think that allowed him to step in and compete on the very first day we started,” Anastos said. “That gave him some confidence, that gave him an attitude and I think oftentimes players think they’re going to just transition and they waste the offseason and you can see that he didn’t. He came in very prepared to compete from the very first day.”
But MacEachern knows that success wouldn’t come without help from his teammates.
“I’m surrounded by a lot of good teammates, good linemates, and just they give me the puck and I can just get some lucky bounces when I’m going to the front of the net,” he said. “But it’s honestly my teammates that are helping me out.”
The Spartans hope they can continue to spread the wealth of scoring in their GLI matchup against Michigan Tech, having dropped two games to the Huskies already this season. MacEachern is looking forward to the rematch, but couldn’t hide his excitement thinking of the other Winter Festival games, especially the Alumni Showdown that will now feature his all-time favorite player, Steve Yzerman.
“When I heard that he was coming back that made me smile because he was my favorite player growing up,” MacEachern said. “I was always No. 19 until I got to Michigan State so I was really excited to hear that.”
Although he isn’t wearing Yzerman’s number as a Spartan, the talented forward could get another opportunity to do so in the future.
“I hope so,” MacEachern said.
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