By Eric Fish
Courtesy of the State News
MSU head coach Rick Comley didn't even know if Colton Fretter would play in the Great Lakes Invitational semifinal contest Thursday afternoon against Michigan Tech after he missed Wednesday's practice with the flu.
"I always thought I was going to play," Fretter, left, said following the game. "But that was up to the coaches."
After Fretter netted the game-winner 13:59 into overtime at Joe Louis Arena to give the Spartans a 3-2 win and a berth in the GLI Championship game for the third straight year, Comley was more than relieved to have the senior forward in the lineup.
"Believe me, as a coach, it was nice to have our whole team," he said. "(It's the) first time this year that we've had everybody available."
But a full lineup still marked a familiar story for the green and white: the inability to score.
"I thought that was a game we could have gone up by certainly at least two, maybe three (goals)," Comley said. "But we couldn't get the puck in the net."
The Spartans (8-7-5) peppered Huskies goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak with 60 shots in the game, only to light the goal lamp a total of three times.
Teslak finished with 57 saves, a GLI record.
"Their goalie played unbelievable," junior captain Drew Miller said. "He made some big saves on us, but I thought just the chances we were getting were really good."
MSU struck first blood when freshmen forwards Tim Crowder and Justin Abdelkader created a chance in the slot that resulted in Crowder's seventh goal of the season.
The score remained in the Spartans' favor until senior defenseman Corey Potter was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for hitting from behind.
Michigan Tech (4-16-1) capitalized on the power play when forward Tyler Shelast deflected a shot that beat junior goaltender Dominic Vicari.
Shelast scored again less than three minutes later to give the Huskies their first lead of the game.
"I thought we dominated the whole game," Miller said. "To go down 2-1, it was just like, 'All right, we don't need this to happen, we're going to work hard and just get back into it.' "
Abdelkder answered with his fifth goal of the year to tie the game midway through the third period.
Regulation ended in a 2-2 tie.
After trading chances through overtime, Fretter played the role of hero when he patiently waited behind the net, then seeing he was unchallenged by defenders, he skated out front lifted a backhand into the net.
Fretter celebrated his seventh tally of the season by sliding face first on his belly across center ice. It was his second game-winning goal of the season.
"Any time you can get to the finals, it's a great feeling," Fretter said. "We just have to get it done in the finals."
The Spartans won the Great Lakes Invitational on Fretter's goal last season, a 2-1 win against Michigan.
The Spartans will meet No. 7 Colorado College at 8 p.m. Friday for a chance to repeat as GLI champions. Colorado College (15-6-1) beat No. 6 U-M, 6-1.
The Wolverines will meet Michigan Tech in the third-place game.