MARQUETTE - After missing the first five games of the 2013-14 season, Northern Michigan University true freshman Sami Salminen spent his previous five contests chasing some of his slightly more experienced teammates.
With a bye week now behind him, however, the 6-foot-4, 222-pound native of Helsinki, Finland has caught up.
Salminen and fellow 20-year-old true freshman forward Dominik Shine both scored their first collegiate goal while adding assists as well in a 3-0 victory over Alabama-Huntsville in WCHA play on Friday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The Finnish freshman, who was ineligible to start the year, had what NMU head coach Walt Kyle would call three "Grade A" scoring chances Friday with his goal sandwiched in between.
"He's five games behind everybody else and he going to take some time and still has to get used to the style of play and the speed and some of those things," Kyle said. "He's growing and could have come out of there with three (goals) tonight. I was real happy with his effort."
Salminen's first chance came early in the second on the doorstep of the UAH (0-11-0 overall, 0-7-0 in WCHA) net, but the Finn fumbled the puck and couldn't get the shot off.
Northern Michigan University senior Jake Johnson (16) grabs the puck from Alabama-Huntsville’s Brent Fletcher (33) during their hockey game Friday night at The Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Jenna Thompson)
Northern Michigan University freshman Barrett Kaib skates with the puck Friday at The Berry Events Center. (Journal photo by Jenna Thompson)
He gave NMU (5-5-1, 3-2-0) a 3-0 lead on his next chance when sophomore forward Cohen Adair made a tape-to-tape pass from the middle of one faceoff circle right to the bottom of another where Salminen was able to one-time the pass past Huntsville freshman goaltender Matt Larose.
Adair and Salminen almost connected for another goal in the third period when the sophomore backhanded a pass to Salminen, but Larose got a leg pad out to keep the game at 3-0 Northern.
"It's a big thing for sure. It's a good feeling," Salminen said about his first goal and third point of the season. "Hopefully there's much more coming."
Shine, who has four points this year, gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead 4:03 into the game when he put away a rebound off a blue-line blast by freshman forward and linemate Shane Sooth.
Shine and Salminen later assisted on a power play goal by junior forward Reed Seckel - his third goal of the season in seven games - at the 11:31 mark of the first period to give NMU a 2-0 lead.
"I've been getting a lot of chances, but I've kind of been a little snake bitten," Shine said. "Walt's been telling me to keep at it, it will come. Getting a rebound right out front felt pretty good."
The Wildcats outshot the winless Chargers 41-16 with a 22-5 advantage after the first period.
Larose finished with 38 saves for UAH while NMU redshirt freshmen Mathias Dahlstrom made 16 saves for his second collegiate shutout in eight starts and nine games.
"The goalies will tell you those are tough games to play," Kyle said about Dahlstrom. "He'd probably rather see 35 shots than 15. I'd rather see 15, but as a goalie, more shots keep you in the game, keep you alert."
The Chargers and Wildcats meet again in Game 2 of the series at 7:07 p.m. tonight at the BEC in Marquette, and while UAH and first year head coach Mike Corbett are still searching for their first win, they've come close on a number of Saturdays.
All four of the Chargers one-goal losses have come on Saturday nights. A week ago, UAH rebounded from 10-0 loss at home to No. 2 St. Cloud State to lose 4-3 on Saturday.
The Huskies needed a goal in the final six minute of the third period to pull out the win in Huntsville.
"I think Saturday games, for whatever reason, we need a 60-minute warmup," Corbett said. "We know the animal now. We know the animal a little bit better and especially playing on the Olympic sheet, it's a little different for us."
NOTES: Corbett is a former Marquette Electricians Midgett AAA hockey player, having been named the team's most outstanding defenseman in 88-89. Prior to taking over UAH this season, he was an assistant coach at Air Force nine seasons and the associate head coach last year. ... NMU senior Erik Higby left the game in the second period with a wrist injury and did not return. ... In addition to Shine and Salminen, Shooth, Higby, Adair and senior defenseman Wade Epp were credited with assists for NMU. ... Wildcats senior forward Stephan Vigier had his eight-game goal streak come to an end Friday.