Strengthening lines brings MSU split

Cody Boyer

With only two regular-season series remaining in the season, the NMU men’s hockey team travelled southbound to split their weekend against the Michigan State University Spartans following the loss to Michigan Tech.

Sophomore defenseman Nate Taurence (6) has made appearances in 10 games this season. This season marks his first to get ice time with NMU.

Following an 8-2 loss against the Huskies, the Wildcats hit the road to play the Spartans on Friday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 16 in East Lansing, Mich., winning the first night, 5-3, and taking a loss on the second, 4-2. Following weekend split, the ’Cats are 7-13-4-1 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and 13-15-4 overall.

NMU head coach Walt Kyle said the quality of play was considerably better during the weekend than it was last week against Tech, and the team is looking to make up for lost ground.

“Over the last week, all of us are really disappointed to where we have gone,” Kyle said. “On Monday, we were 18th in the country and then we go and lay an egg against Tech. We drop there and then we go to East Lansing with a short line-up, and we did a great job on Friday.”

On Friday, NMU was down four players due to injury, including junior defenseman Wade Epp, senior defenseman Kyle Follmer, junior defenseman CJ Ludwig and freshman forward Cohen Adair. The Wildcats stole the lead early into the game with a score of 2-0 going into the second period.

NMU kept the goals going into the third period, bringing the score to 3-0. Michigan State pushed two goals past junior goaltender Jared Coreau in the third, with Spartans Matt Berry scoring at 9:41 and Jake Chelios tallying another at 14:52. The Wildcats scored two more goals past MSU goaltender Jake Hildebrand following one last goal from the Spartans, bringing the final score to 5-3.

Senior forward Matt Thurber scored two goals during the game, tallying his 15th and 16th career goals. Thurber’s first goal of the night was a power-play goal, assisted by senior forward Brian Nugent and sophomore forward Reed Seckel. Junior forward Erik Higby earned the first goal of the game, assisted by Thurber and Seckel.

“Seckel’s line was on fire,” Kyle said. “They made all of our goals. They were really effective at moving the puck and getting to the net, and they also created a lot of opportunities and capitalized on them.”

Seckel tallied his 11th goal of the season and also scored two goals during the night. Seckel’s first goal was assisted by freshman defenseman Ryan Trenz. His second goal went unassisted and was an empty-net goal.

Between the posts, Coreau saved 31 shots, while MSU’s Hildebrand stopped 29 in his crease.

Coreau said the team’s first CCHA win away from Marquette was a welcome accomplishment following the Tech game.

“We were mainly trying to bounce back this weekend and salvage some pride,” Coreau said. “It was good because, with a loss like that against a rival team, we walked away feeling pretty low. That was our first win in the CCHA on the road. We did a pretty good job at accomplishing that.”

On Saturday, the ’Cats wrapped up their weekend with a loss against the Spartans, 4-2. Sophomore defenseman Mitch Jones scored first for the Wildcats with his second goal of the season, assisted by Nugent and senior defenseman Scott Macaulay. Nugent shot the final Wildcat goal of the night unassisted, marking his first goal of the season.

At the conclusion of the night, the Spartans led in shots-on-net 43-20. In the crease, Coreau saved 39 shots, while Hildebrand stopped 18. Macaulay said the team is setting their sights on this weekend’s match-up against No. 8 Bowling Green.

“It is going to be a huge weekend,” Macaulay said. “With only four games left, every game counts. They are right ahead of us in the conference, so, if we get the job done this weekend, we can probably get ahead of them. It has become a bit of a rivalry since they knocked us out the last two years. We haven’t forgotten the stigma that those games have left, so we are going down there looking for two wins.”

The traveling continues for the Wildcats as they face Bowling Green this weekend for their final CCHA series away from home. Puck drops at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2 in Bowling Green, Ohio.