MARQUETTE - With junior goaltender Jared Coreau hot between the pipes and a victory over Upper Peninsula rival Michigan Tech in his pocket, Northern Michigan University head coach Walt Kyle was ready to play another two games this weekend following the 2-1 win over the Huskies on Tuesday at the Berry Events Center.
Then Kyle came back down to reality, and remembered the odd lineups and over 35 games his players have missed due to injuries and suspensions this season.
The Wildcats are in need of a rest after three games in five days, plus six of their last nine games on the road.
Northern Michigan University senior forward Matt Thurber (12) takes a faceoff against Michigan?Tech on Tuesday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Thurber missed the previous five games due to a suspension and his return to the ice Tuesday brought some normalcy back to the Wildcats’ lineup. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"We need rest. We're banged up," Kyle said.
"The big thing right now is these guys need to rest, recover and get back."
While the Huskies continue on to Madison, Wis. to play Wisconsin this weekend in their fourth and fifth games in nine days, the Wildcats will take the weekend off before wrapping up the Fall 2012 semester with a pair of CCHA games on Dec. 14-15 at Lake Superior State.
The eight-place Lakers, who were swept at Notre Dame last week, travel to Miami this weekend and sit only one spot and two points ahead of NMU and Michigan State, who are tied for ninth in the CCHA with 10 points.
"We're going up against a tough Lake State team," said Coreau after stopping 25 shots Tuesday. "They are always pretty good. They have a lot of skill guys. They're kind of a sleeper team, you could say. They might go on a little skid but come out with a big win against a Notre Dame or Michigan.
"We're looking to go down there and get a couple wins, but it's not going to be easy there."
Coreau holding an opponent to a single goal for the second game in a row and second time in four games - he made 37 saves Saturday in 1-0 loss at Western Michigan - was key to the 'Cats victory on Tuesday, but so was the group in front of him.
NMU senior forward Matt Thurber returned to the Wildcats' lineup after being tossed 54 seconds into Game 1 against Ohio State on Nov. 16, being suspended for Game 2 against the Buckeyes by the CCHA for the contact to the head penalty and then being suspended by Kyle four games for violating a team rule.
Thurber's return cued some normalcy to the Wildcats forward lines with the top tree trios being made up completely of pure forwards, something that has been rare since Thurber left the lineup.
"It's nice to have Thurber back in the lineup," NMU freshman forward Darren Nowick said. "He's a big offensive part of our game. It seemed like we had four solid lines out there and we were able to mix it up down low.
"It's nice to have all forwards playing forward."
Thurber wasn't able to add on to his one goal or 11 assists, though he did set up an unsuccessful Cohen Adair attempt, but Nowick was able to provide a spark to the struggling NMU attack.
Nowick, who has missed seven games due to injury and is playing with a splint on his hand, assisted on a goal by junior forward Erik Higby with 16 seconds left in the second period.
The attack all started with turnover forced by Nowick via the forecheck.
"He's going to be a major player for us throughout his career," Kyle said about Nowick.
"One of his gifts is his hands. He's a courageous kid. He's playing banged up. He knows we need him and he's been doing a good job."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.