DETROIT — Michigan State’s pent-up, early-season frustration spilled on to the ice after the Spartan’s second overtime victory in two days, this time over bitter rival and No. 3 Michigan, gave them the 2004 Great Lakes Invitational championship. Colton Fretter took advantage of a bizarre play behind the Michigan net to lift the Spartans to victory.
“It was great,” Comley said. “Coming in here and beating teams ranked sixth and third in the country is tremendous for us. I know Michigan was obviously shorthanded, but, I thought their kids played well. I thought Ruden was outstanding in goal. I think last year he showed he could play at this level. He was great. I thought both teams went toe to toe.”
Nearing 10 minutes into the overtime period, Michigan State dumped the puck into the Michigan end. Michigan goalie Noah Ruden went behind his net to play the puck but ended up waiting, then leaving the puck for his teammate Reilly Olson. Olson played the puck but was pressured from behind by Spartan Drew Miller. The puck popped out right to Fretter, who sent the game-winner into the empty net as Ruden scrambled to get back in the net.
“It’s a great feeling,” Fretter said. “I don’t think I’ve scored a bigger goal than that. The team’s up on cloud nine right now and hopefully we can keep going with that.”
“That’s one of those things where a goalie usually stops it and leaves it, or lets it go or wraps it,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. “You have to give the other team credit, they scored the goal. But was it an earned goal? Was it a good play? It was a typical overtime goal, they’re lucky goals, not good goals.”
The Michigan State bench poured onto the ice and a mountain of Spartans formed over Fretter at the left faceoff circle the frustration of a difficult early season released.
Michigan State jumped out to an early lead with a Jim Slater goal on the Spartan’s first power play halfway through the first period. Slater was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“It feels just like I imagined it all the stories you hear from past guys who have won (the GLI),” Slater said. ” To finally bring it back to Michigan State is a great feeling.”
Michigan tied the game early in the third with Brandon Kaleniecki’s fifth goal in the last six games. Kaleniecki was named to the all-tournament team.
Kaleniecki gathered a loose puck behind the Spartan goal, attempted to wrap around a backhand shot, and knocked his own rebound past Dominic Vicari.
After the Wolverines tied the game, every rush down the ice brought the crowd to their feet and each goalie to the top of their game. Both Vicari and Ruden made save after save, pushing the game into overtime. Despite the bizarre ending, Ruden was also named to the all-tournament team for his two-game performance. Ruden was filling in for Al Montoya, who is playing in the World Junior Championship along with four other Wolverines.
“I though Noah did a great job,” Berenson said. “He came in with a little more experience than he had at this time last year. He gave us a chance. He made some big saves in this game. But, the big thing was that he was handling all the little saves and making them look easy that’s when a goalie’s playing well. I thought he really was the backbone of our team back there when he had to be.”
The Wolverines were also aided by the return of Eric Werner on defense, who has missed several weeks with a knee injury.
“Eric Werner is a heart and soul player he’d play with a broken leg,” Berenson said. “We felt that he couldn’t hurt his knee any more and that he would be safe to play. He’s one of those kids that plays hurt, and he did that tonight.”
Michigan State hopes the win will catapult them into the second half of the season.
“I’m especially pleased because we had the lead and then lost it again,” Comley said. But, we’re very resilient and I thought we got better and better as the third period went on and into overtime. It’s always key when the guys you expect to score do score. I think we’re very excited. It takes a lot of pressure off this team, but keep in mind we’re just one game above .500 and now we have to make something happen in league play. Michigan was expectedly disappointed, but will look to the return of their teammates as they return to CCHA play.
“Obviously, the two teams will meet again,” Comley said. “It’s the team each other likes to play most. They got us earlier this year and they will want to even up for us getting this one.”