MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University hockey team opened the 2013-14 season Saturday with a 3-1 exhibition win over the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 squad at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
Senior defenseman C.J. Ludwig, senior forward Erik Higby and sophomore forward Cohen Adair all picked up goals and NMU head coach Walt Kyle said the exhibition was exactly what he thought it would be after practicing the maximum per NCAA rules over the first two weeks - four hours.
"You try not evaluate the game," Kyle said. "You try to evaluate individuals and where you are tactically and where your growth is tactically.
Northern Michigan University freshman Shane Sooth (11) gets possession of the puck and brings it into the attacking zone during the second period against the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 squad in an exhibition game on Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"Some of the areas we worked on in that limited time we were pretty good at tonight. I thought we did a good job in D-zone coverage. I thought they did a good job penalty killing for the most part."
University of Michigan recruit Darin Larkin gave the USNTDP a 1-0 lead 53 seconds into the second period on a wrap around chance, but four minutes later, Ludwig blasted a drifting puck into the back of the Team USA net before it could reach the blue line to tie the game at 1-1.
Adair set up the Wildcats second score at 18:11 of the second period by juking a USNTDP defender and feeding the puck to an open Higby. The senior forward buried the chance to give Northern the 2-1 advantage heading into the third period.
Adair got a goal for himself late at 18:14 of the third, scoring on the power play off a Shane Sooth rebound.
"I felt I was a little rusty at the start of it in the first period," said Ludwig, NMU's captain. "As the game went on, we got better. The guys felt more comfortable. They guys started making plays. We figured it was going to be a little shaky like that. Getting back into it is a tough thing to do."
After practicing, but sitting in the stands on game day all of last season, NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced in the first and second period of his Wildcat debut.
Sophomore Michael Doan, who last year only appeared in five road games as a Wildcat freshman in relief of current Grand Rapids Griffin Jared Coreau, made seven saves in the third period.
"Mathias certainly had more work and for a guy who hadn't - I know what it's like - played for a year," said Kyle, who transferred to NMU from Boston College in 1980. "It's good for him and (junior transfer defenseman) Luke Eibler, who saw no hockey last year at all. That's a tough test against that team."
USNTDP goaltender Edwin Minney, a Michigan State recruit, finished with 12 saves as the Wildcats were outshot 30-15.
The 'Cats - who were called for four minor penalties - converted on one of their four power play chances and killed all three of the USNTDP's chances.
Northern continues exhibition play at 2 p.m. on Sunday against Laurentian University (Ontario) at the Berry Events Center.