It's amazing to think how much of an influence the Great Lakes have on weather throughout the Midwest.
I spoke with one of my good friends over at the Chicago National Weather Service, Lead Forecaster Matt Friedlein, and he said that the ice from last year came on strong late in the season, after not much at all through early February. "It was likely because of so many systems passing over the Great Lakes bringing us non-stop snow and for the lakes non-stop wind, so ice could not develop with any depth. This year, we have had regular cold high pressure systems in January and February to diminish winds and allow ice to thicken and persist."
If the ice were to stay thick through the remainder of winter, which it may, then the start of spring could be cooler with a slower warm up into March and April.