MARQUETTE - Goals have been tough to come by for the Northern Michigan University hockey team this season, and lighting the lamp be an even harder task against the Alaska Nanooks at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The Wildcats, who sit in last place in the CCHA, could be without up to five of their top offensive pieces due to suspensions and injuries.
NMU head coach Walt Kyle has suspended senior forward Matt Thurber for an unspecified violation of a team rule and declared the Wildcats' leading scorer out for the weekend series.
Northern Michigan University senior forward Matt Thurber, shown on Nov. 3 against Michigan at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, leads the Wildcats in scoring with one goal and 11 assists in three games. Thurber has been suspended by NMU head coach Walt Kyle for a violation of team rules. (Journal file photo by Zach Jay)
According to Kyle, Thurber is "out until I decide he's back in."
Thurber, who was dismissed from the Wisconsin Badgers as a sophomore before transferring to Northern last season, has one goal in 11 games this year. His 11 assists leads the CCHA and is tied for the most in the nation with three other players.
Thurber was ejected from Friday's game at Ohio State for his contact to the head major 54 seconds into the game. He was then suspended for Saturday's game by the CCHA for the penalty.
Junior forward Erik Higby was also hit with a five-minute major for contact to the head, but on Saturday against the Buckeyes. Higby received a game disqualification for the hit, resulting in him being suspended for Friday's game against the Nanooks.
Sophomore forward Reed Seckel missed the entire series against Miami with an injury, but on Wednesday, Kyle said he was still hopeful to have Seckel back against the Nanooks.
Two players who aren't hopeful, but just out with injuries, are freshmen forwards Darren Nowick and Justin Rose, according to Kyle.
"We know we're going to be challenged offensively and when you lose five of your top nine, you are really going to be hindered offensively," Kyle said.
Three times in 12 games this season NMU has hit its high of four goals - a win over Wisconsin and a win and tie against Michigan, which statistically is the only defense ranked worse than NMU in the CCHA.
The Wildcats have been shutout once - Friday against Ohio State - and scored two goals in all of its other eight games.
Thurber's 12 points leads NMU in scoring while junior forward Stephan Vigier has nine points off of two goals and seven assists.
Sophomore forward Ryan Daugherty - Vigier's linemate all season - and freshman forward Cohen Adair lead NMU in goals scored with five each, however, all of Adair's primary catalysts this season - Seckel, Thurber, Higby and Rose - have been either suspended or injured as of late.
Not coincidently, Adair is scoreless in each of his last four games.
"We've been hindered by not being able to get a consistent group of guys together that can play together for awhile and develop some offense," Kyle said.