Fretter's OT winner is the difference
By Matt Mackinder
DETROIT – Colton Fretter got an unexpected late Christmas gift Thursday night.
Parked in front of an empty Michigan net, the puck came free to the Michigan State junior and he banged it home to give the Spartans the overtime win in the championship game of the Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena.
“Drew (Miller) was working hard down there and it came to me and I just threw it at the open net,” said Fretter. “I don’t think I’ve ever scored a goal bigger than that.”
Spartans head coach Rick Comley quickly corrected Fretter by saying, “He didn’t just throw it at the net - he hammered it.”
With the victory, MSU staked their claim for the GLI championship for the first time since 2000. Senior captain Jim Slater had said before the tournament that he wanted to go out in style with his senior class.
“It feels exactly how I thought it would,” said Slater. “We came in here wanting to get two wins and that’s what we did. No one ever gave up and we fought back both nights. Usually when you don’t give up and keep at it, you win and that’s what we did.”
Michigan State (10-9-1) opened the scoring 10:39 into the first period as Slater, named the tournament’s MVP, took a feed from Miller and beat Michigan goalie Noah Ruden glove side for the early lead on a man-advantage. The puck went off Michigan defenseman Tim Cook, but Slater was credited with the goal.
After a scoreless middle period, Wolverines’ junior Brandon Kaleniecki stripped MSU defenseman Chris Snavely behind the MSU net and beat Dominic Vicari with a jam job, while falling forward, to knot the game at 1-all just 71 seconds into the third period.
That set the stage for Fretter’s heroics 9:24 into the extra session.
“We really went toe-to-toe with Michigan,” said Comley, “We got the lead, but when we lost it, we stayed resilient, and got better and better as the third period went on and into overtime. And it's always key when the guys who you expect to score actually do score. And even though this is obviously a huge win for us, you have to remember we’re still just a game over .500 and have a ways to go.”
“When you win or lose in overtime, it sometimes takes away from how you played in the game,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “I liked how we dug down and gave ourselves a chance. Ruden had a strong game and it was a good game for Michigan even though we didn't score the goal we needed in overtime.”
“This will give us some extra jump,” said Kaleniecki. “We gave it everything we had, and for the guys who'll be coming back, maybe they'll look at us in a different way, and say 'hey, they had a chance to win it without us and maybe they'll help us take it to the next level.'”
The Wolverines, now 14-5-1 overall, were without goalie Al Montoya, defenseman Matt Hunwick and forwards Kevin Porter, Mike Brown and T.J. Hensick who are in Grand Forks, N.D., representing the United States at the World Junior Championships.
Comley reiterated the fact that MSU sets three goals at the beginning of each season. So far, it’s one down and two to go.
“At Michigan State we have three goals every year: win the GLI, win the CCHA, and win a national championship,” stated Comley. “We're not going to downplay this victory. Nothing replaces winning and if you're not going to enjoy it, then you might as well find something else to do.”
The all-tournament team was comprised of Ruden, Slater, Kaleniecki, Michigan Tech forward Colin Murphy, New Hampshire defenseman Robbie Barker and Michigan defenseman Brandon Rogers.
The combined second-day crowd was 17,698. Next year's invite team that will join Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech will be Colorado College, which hasn't made a GLI appearance since the tournament's debut in 1965.
Michigan State returns to CCHA play with a two-game set at Miami, Jan. 7-8 while the Wolverines play a home-and-home set with Western Michigan.