MARQUETTE - For the 3,453 fans at the Berry Events Center on Saturday and thousands watching on Fox Sports Detroit Plus at home or in local establishments, the scuffle between Northern Michigan University and Michigan State was a perfect way to cap a tight battle on the ice.
Head coaches Walt Kyle and Tom Anastos weren't as thrilled with the finale, however.
Northern snapped a three-game losing skid and eight-game winless streak with a 2-1 win over Michigan State, though, the victory came at a cost with three defensemen receiving games disqualifications and one-game suspensions for their conduct after the whistle.
Junior Scott Macaulay picked up a five-minute major for fighting while his defensive partner, junior Kyle Follmer, was handed a five-minute major for facemasking.
Sophomore Wade Epp earned a 10-minute abuse of officials penalty after leaving the penalty box to join the scuffle. He originally picked up a two-minute cross checking penalty with two seconds left on the clock.
Sophomore Reed Seckel also received a five-minute major for cross checking, though he was only handed a 10-minute game misconduct.
On the Spartans' side, Greg Wolfe was given a five-minute major and game disqualification for fighting with Macaulay and Torey Krug was handed a five-minute major and game disqualification for facemasking, like Follmer.
Krug and Wolfe will miss MSU's game on Black Friday against Minnesota in East Lansing, but the loss of Follmer, Macaulay and Epp for NMU leaves the Wildcats with only five defensemen in sophomores Austin Handley, C.J. Ludwig and Ryan Kesti, plus freshmen Jake Baker and Mitch Jones for the Dec. 2 CCHA showdown with Miami in Marquette.
Kesti has been playing as a forward for NMU this season, however, he played last year as a defenseman and Kyle said he's always a viable option on the blue line.
One player who is no longer a possibility at any position is NMU freshman defenseman Eric Walker, who left the NMU hockey team this week and signed with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, a Canadian major junior league.
"It was a tough decision to leave Northern Michigan, but I realized at this point in my career the best place to be with regards to my development is the Western Hockey League," said Walker in a statement released Saturday by the WHL. "I'm thrilled to be returning to my home province and I can't wait to get started."
Walker was one of six NMU hockey players along with Baker, Jones, freshman forward Dylan Walchuk, freshman forward D.J. Vandercook and sophomore Stephan Vigier facing misdemeanor charges, loss of scholarship dollars and a suspension of one to five games for involvement in the alleged stolen bicycle incident.
University policy says the suspensions do not have to be served immediately, consecutively or at the same time according to NMU Director of Marketing and Communications Cindy Paavola.
Paavola said the policy is in place to guarantee that coaches can field complete teams.
Kyle has not disclosed when the suspensions will be served, however, Jones was out of the lineup for the first time all season on Friday for what was called disciplinary reasons.
Walker is facing the most serve charge of stealing a maroon Trek bicycle, valued at more than $200, but less than $1,000, a one-year misdemeanor. The crime is also punishable by a fine of $2,000 or three times the property value, whichever is greater.
He was schedule to appear in Marquette County District Court at 8 a.m. on Dec. 6.
Walker had not appeared in any games this season for NMU.
Northern will have some extra time to sort out its lineup with a bye over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The Wildcats were also without senior forward Andrew Cherniwchan this weekend against Michigan State and should he not be healthy to play, NMU would be short a skater with three goaltenders, five defenseman and 12 forwards.