NMU hockey: Wildcats’ Seckel checking his emotions, scoring points

MARQUETTE – On the ice, Northern Michigan University junior forward Reed Seckel is the “epitome” of what Wildcats head coach Walt Kyle wants out of a forward.

“He’s aggressive, he’s tough. When the puck is on his stick, he’s got good, good skills, he goes to hard ice,” Kyle said. “He’s the kind of forward we want in this program.”

Off the ice, however, Kyle said the assistant captain needs to keep his emotions in check, something even Seckel agrees with, whether it be on or off the ice.

“Sometimes I have to bite my tongue,” he said.

That’s a change in mentality for Seckel from past years when he followed up a pair of first-round CCHA playoff losses by calling out himself and his teammates in impassioned, the-truth-hurts-type interviews.

That kind of aggressive, emotional style on and off the ice has won over fans, but a more tactful approach is needed for a team captain, and Seckel is doing a much better job with that this season as a junior, Kyle said.

“He’s a guy who at times we want to tone it down in the room because he gets so emotional,” Kyle said. “His emotion is his asset, but in a leadership role, he has to tone it down. I think he’s done a real good job finding a line this year, I think a much better job than a year ago in a leadership role.”

Seckel has let his stick do the talking as of late with a four-game goal streak going into this weekend’s WCHA series against No. 6-ranked Ferris State at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. both nights, with the WCHA-leading Bulldogs bringing a nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1) to Marquette.

“We just came off a six-game homestand so you know you’re burning games there. That’s why it was important to go 5-0-1,” FSU coach Bob Daniels said. “We’ve proven we can play well on the road. We did our job at home and now it’s time to take it on the road.”

Seckel, who finished with 13 goals and 25 assists last year, missed the first four games of this season with an undisclosed upper body injury, then posted two assists in his first four games back against Michigan Tech and Alaska.

His first goal of the season was the go-ahead score in a 5-4 come-from-behind win on Nov. 9 at Western Michigan and he lit the lamp again the following night in a 2-2 tie in Kalamazoo.

He returned from the bye last weekend to keep his streak alive, scoring on the power play Friday and unassisted Saturday in a pair of wins over Alabama-Huntsville in Marquette.

Like his linemate, Wildcats’ leading scorer and senior forward Stephan Vigier, Seckel said he has an extra jump in his step now that he’s not a part of the penalty kill unit.

“It’s nice. I’m a lot fresher,” Seckel said after Saturday’s win. “When the PK is over with, we can jump right back out there and be fresh and ready to go.”

The Wildcats will need the offensive firepower of both Seckel and Vigier, plus others, against the Bulldogs, who boast the WCHA’s top scoring offense, averaging 3.92 goals per game. That average is also good for third in NCAA Division I.

Leading the attack for Ferris is senior forward Garrett Thompson and junior forward Justin Buzzeo, who each have seven goals and nine assists to lead the league in scoring by a point over Vigier, the league leader in goals at 10.

Ferris senior defenseman Scott Czarnowczan leads all WCHA defensemen in scoring with four goals and nine assists, but Northern senior C.J. Ludwig is right behind him in second with five goals and seven assists.

Meanwhile, NMU’s scoring defense is giving up a league-low 2.33 goals per game in part because of the play of redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom, this week’s WCHA Rookie of the Week.

After back-to-back shutouts of Alabama-Huntsville, Dahlstrom ranks second in the WCHA and 10th in Division I in goals against average (1.91) and third in the league and 12th in the nation in save percentage (.933).

On the opposite end, FSU junior goaltender C.J. Motte, the reigning two-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Week, is not only the winningest goaltender in the WCHA, but in the nation at 10-0-1 (.955).

“One of the key matchups of the weekend is (Dahlstrom) and Motte,” Kyle said. “It’s going to be an interesting matchup. Mathias is certainly going to get tested and he’s going to have to respond to that. We feel really comfortable with him.”