MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University hockey coach Walt Kyle singled out senior Andrew Cherniwchan and junior Matt Thurber earlier in the week for not putting pucks in the back off the net.
On Saturday, they answered the call.
"We need those guys to have a better second half," Kyle said. "We talked about that and those two both came through big tonight."
Cherniwchan and Thurber each recorded hat tricks to lead NMU over the Alaska Nanooks 7-3 Saturday at the Berry Events Center, allowing the Wildcats to redeem themselves after Friday's meltdown.
Northern blew a 2-0 lead in the third period of Game 1 the night before and lost in a shootout 1-0. Saturday's win allowed Northern to salvage a four-point weekend with only four home games remaining this season as the team improved to 10-7-4 overall and 6-6-4 in CCHA play.
"We threw one away (Friday) night," Thurber said. "We didn't have our best game (Saturday) but it was a huge win for our team. We have a tough stretch coming up with five road games. We just have to get ready to go on the road."
Northern Michigan’s Tyler Gron, left, chases the puck in the neutral zone, getting to it before Alaska’s Jarret Granberg during the second period Saturday at the Berry Events Center. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Cherniwchan came into the night with only two goals, but posted his third and fourth of the season on power plays to give NMU a 1-0 lead in the first period on a five-minute Alaska major and a 3-1 lead in the second period.
Cherniwchan finished off his first career hat trick by beating Alaska goaltender Scott Greenham top shelf with 6 seconds on the clock for his fifth goal of the season.
It was the first double hat trick for NMU since the Lakeview Arena days, specifically Feb. 28, 1992 against Denver in a WCHA tussle.
"I haven't had too much puck luck lately and I've just been trying to get a lot of shots," Cherniwchan said. "It worked out tonight."
Thurber recorded his third goal and 14th point of the season with the help of senior Tyler Gron and Nanook defenseman Cody Butcher to break a 1-1 tie in the second period.
Gron and Thurber both were coming off the Wildcat bench on a line change and as Gron stepped onto the ice, he took a pass from Butcher in the defenseman's own zone. Gron casually passed the puck to Thurber, who easily sidestepped Greenham to complete the easy score off the turnover.
"It worked out perfect," Thurber said. "Gron made a nice pass to me. I was in the right spot right in the back door. Luckily I got it in."
Thurber struck again midway through the third period with assists from Gron and redshirt freshman Reed Seckel to put Northern up 5-2 five minutes after freshman defenseman Mitch Jones had given NMU a 4-2 lead.
Thurber finished off his hat trick, fifth goal of the season and 16th point with 1:40 to play in the game, clearing the puck into an empty Nanook net.
"It feels really good. I've had success passing the puck this year so far but I haven't found the net many times this year," said Thurber, who has 11 assists. "Getting three tonight was huge. Hopefully it will open the flood gates and I can get a few more the next few games."
Alaska scored both of its second period goals on the power play with senior Aaron Gens beating NMU sophomore goaltender Jared Coreau from the blue line 2:05 into the second. Sophomore Cody Kunyk converted during a two-man advantage at 16:25 to make it a 3-2 game.
Alaska pulled within two goals in the third period via a score by Michael Quinn in 4-on-4 play at 12:36 of the third.
"We lost the third period (Friday) night so the key was don't do what we did (Friday) night," Cherniwchan said. "Although, we still have a lot more in us."
Coreau, who was the CCHA Goaltender of the Month for December and an honorable mention for national player of the month, made 37 saves to improve his 2011-12 record to 6-2-1.
Greenham finished with 24 for Alaska, including some game-savers in the first and second period while the Nanooks were killing Garrick Perry's five-minute major for checking from behind.
"I thought Jared made some saves but I thought he struggled," Kyle said. "I thought there were a couple he'd like to have back. He knows that."
The four-point weekend moved NMU into a tie with Miami for fifth place in the league at 24 points. Both teams lead Michigan by a single point and trail fourth-place Lake Superior State by a point.
NMU hits the road next weekend for a two game series against Michigan State in East Lansing. NMU and State split in Marquette earlier in the year.
The Spartans were tied with NMU in sixth to start the weekend, but were swept by the RedHawks and dropped to ninth with 20 points.
NOTES: NMU sophomore Erik Higby did not play for NMU on Saturday after leaving the game in the second period with an undisclosed injury. He was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. He was in the Berry Events Center for Saturday's game. His status is day-to-day. ... Senior Justin Florek of Marquette is one point shy of 100 after recording two assists in Saturday's win. ... NMU has not lost to Alaska since Nov. 30, 2007.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.