MARQUETTE - If sharing is caring, Northern Michigan University senior forward Matt Thurber cares a lot.
The former Wisconsin Badger turned Wildcat is leading the nation in assists with 11 heading into a Week 6 battle against Ohio State at 7:05 p.m. on Friday and Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
For Thurber, that's not good enough, however. Not when he's only scored one goal in 10 games.
Northern Michigan University senior forward Matt Thurber brings the puck up ice against Michigan on Nov. 3 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Thurber leads the nation with 11 assists, however, he only has one goal in 10 games, which is not good enough from him or head coach Walt Kyle. (Journal file photo by Zach Jay)
"I just need to shoot the puck more," said Thurber, who is averaging 1.7 shots on goal per game. "I'm looking more for passing the puck rather than shooting it right now. I'm passing the puck well, but I need to start finding the back of the net.
"One goal in 10 games is not acceptable to me. It's not what I had for goals in my mind for the year. Walt is expecting a lot more out of me."
NMU head coach Walt Kyle is expecting a lot more out of his senior from Beaver Dam, Wis., and he hasn't been afraid to share his, at times, harsh thoughts on Thurber this season.
Following a 5-2 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 26 in Marquette to open CCHA play, Kyle called Thurber "way out of shape" when referencing the play of the senior and his teammates in the third period.
On Tuesday, Kyle explained further why he's been harsh on Thurber this season.
"I think there's more room for him to do better," Kyle said. "I'm happy with him, but I know this kid can be better. The bad news for him is I know he can be better. The good news is I believe enough in him to know he can be better."
One area Kyle expects Thurber to be better is scoring goals. While 40 assists this season would be great because it means someone is putting the puck in the net, 12-15 goals is what was projected from Thurber during the preseason, according to Kyle.
Thurber's one goal this season came against his former team in his home state - a game-tying goal at 12:18 of the third period against the Badgers in Green Bay. He also had an assist that night.
Thurber has posted an assist in all but two games this season - Oct. 26 against Notre Dame and Friday against Notre Dame - on a team that is averaging 2.6 goals per game.
"Matt Thurber is creating offense," Kyle said. "He has the ability in every game, even in a game when he has an average performance, to make a couple big plays that result in goals. He has that ability.
"I would like to see him be as good as (Miami's Austin) Czarnik was against us or (RedHawk freshman) Riley Barber was where you just feel like you're under siege when they are on the ice. He has that ability. I want to see that out of him."
Kyle called Thurber an "elite passer" and "really creative playmaker." Those attributes have allowed whoever Thurber is paired with to prosper.
Thurber's original linemate from last season and the start of 2012-13 - sophomore Reed Seckel - has scored three of his four goals this season off Thurber assists.
Meanwhile, Thurber's latest linemate, freshman Cohen Adair, has scored four of his team-high five goals off Thurber assists.
Freshman forward Ryan Aynsley, junior forward Erik Higby, junior forward Stephan Vigier and senior defenseman Scott Macaulay have also scored off of Thurber assists with Aynsley, Higby and Macaulay only having one goal this season.
Vigier has two to go along with his six assists, which is second to Thurber on the Wildcats.
"It doesn't really matter who it is," Thurber said. "Everyone is good enough on this team to get open and produce. I've gotten the opportunity to play with a bunch of good guys and we've just been able to make it happen, whether it be a rush or me just finding them."
Matt Wellens be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.