MARQUETTE - After going 539 days in between starts, Northern Michigan University redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom of Smedjebacken, Sweden, was worried about how much he'd lost heading into Saturday's exhibition.
Turns out he lost very little. In fact, he'd gained an edge by the end of the weekend.
"It felt great. I've really been looking forward to this," Dahlstrom said Sunday after stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced in three periods of exhibition action over two days. "I was pretty nervous before the first game. I didn't know how much I'd lost since last year, but I felt pretty good."
Northern Michigan University redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom makes a stick save against the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 squad in an exhibition Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Dahlstrom's last game in goal was April 13, 2012 for the Chicago Steel of the USHL. His team won 4-2 over the Dubuque Fighting Saints in Iowa and the recently committed Wildcat recruit stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced.
Since that day, Dahlstrom has done nothing but watch on game day.
He had to sit out all of last season as a partial NCAA qualifier, though he was able to practice daily alongside NMU junior goaltender Jared Coreau - now with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL - and current Wildcats sophomore netminder Michael Doan.
2013-14 NMU Hockey Season Preview: NMU defensemen look for redemption after underachieving in 2012-13. www.miningjournal.net
That time allowed Dahlstrom to not only get used to NCAA shooters, but it allowed him to hone his skills under the tutelage NMU assistant coach and goaltending guru Joe Shawhan.
One of those skills on display over the weekend was the limited amount of rebounds Dahlstrom gave up in front of his crease.
"I noticed in this league, there's a lot of shooting off the pads, so it's a big deal to use the stick a lot," Dahlstrom said.
"For me, I want to get it down in the corner or the best case scenario is to get it back in the top net."
Dahlstrom and Doan split time in net this weekend, with the Swede playing the first and second period Saturday of a 3-1 victory over the USA Hockey National Team Development Program's Under-18 squad and the third period on Sunday of a 3-2 win over Laurentian University out of Ontario.
Doan played the third period Saturday and the first two periods Sunday. He finished with 18 saves and two goals against.
"Going into it, it was fairly even," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "I think Mathias earned the edge. I think both did a good job. I think they both were credible. It was great to see both of them perform really good. It was really good to see Mathias perform the way he did."
Doan, who will back up Dahlstrom in Friday's regular season opener at the University of Wisconsin, appeared in five games last year all on the road and all in relief of Coreau.
The 22-year-old Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native posted shutouts in three of the appearances and overall stopped 63 of the 69 shots he faced. Four of the five goals allowed by Doan came against Michigan Tech, which Kyle said was a night the Wildcats as a whole were "rotten."
"We put Doan in during stressful situations last year when we were down and getting shelled," Kyle said. "Michael had to come in with no warm up."
Behind Dahlstrom and Doan is 19-year-old Derek Dun out of Surrey, British Columbia. In 38 games last season with the Cowichan Valley Clippers and Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL, Dun posted a 3.06 goals against average, .910 save percentage and a 15-20-0 record.
Dun didn't play over the weekend in exhibition play, but according to Kyle, will someday be a starting collegiate goaltender.
"We brought (Dun) in late in the year to fill a need," Kyle said. "He's very athletic, technically sound. He's a guy who looks like a Division I goaltender. He's going to have an opportunity to play. He's certainly, in our opinion, going to grow into a quality goaltender over time."