Typically, if a goalie turns in a 52-save performance to open the season, as Maine’s Jeremy Swayman did this year, he’d have a good shot at coming away with the win. Problem was, the Black Bears surrendered 59 shots that day to Providence, and limped back to Orono having been dealt a 7-0 beatdown.
Fortunately for Maine, that would not set the tone for the rest of the season, as the Black Bears bounced back to go 7-3-1 in their next 11 games before getting swept by Northeastern last weekend.
“We got punched in the mouth, and we had a good reality check,” said Swayman, who has started 13 games.
“I think that we bounced back really well, but after this weekend, I think it’s time to reset and refocus and really zero in on playing our style of play.”
Swayman was selected by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft and participated in their development camp that summer before entering his freshman year at Maine.
“Every year it’s extremely competitive,” said Swayman. “The staff does a great job of taking the top prospects of the world, and really give them the chance to showcase their ability as well as being hands-on at the same time.
“I don’t remember a single time that anyone walked by without saying hi to me or welcoming me with open arms.”
Swayman participated in the program the following two summers as well, and has started to see his role change.
“Now I’m kind of an older guy; walking around, it’s a different feel,” said Swayman, who turned 21 this week.
“I know it’s my responsibility to start welcoming the new draftees and invitees. It’s a great midsummer tuneup, and it’s been very beneficial to my play.”
Thus far, Swayman is allowing 2.21 goals per game while posting a .937 save percentage. He stopped 62 of 64 shots as Maine swept the Border Battle against New Hampshire Nov. 15-16.
“I understand that if I do my job here, that’s going to get me to the next level where I want to be,” said Swayman, a native of Anchorage.
For all the success the Bruins have had lately, both in terms of competing for the Stanley Cup as well as developing young players, one area in which they have struggled is cultivating a young goalie.
In 2010, they drafted Zane McIntyre in the sixth round. McIntyre played three seasons at North Dakota, developing into the top goalie in the NCAA and winning the Mike Richter Award after leading his team to the Frozen Four in 2015.
He turned pro after the 2015 season but made just two appearances for Boston in four seasons with the organization, losing both games. Last offseason, he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Bruins selected Malcolm Subban with the 24th pick of the first round in 2012. He turned pro in 2013 and spent four seasons in the organization, compiling a record of 56-45-19 with a .918 save percentage in 127 games with Providence.
He made just two appearances with the NHL club, getting the loss each time. He was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights prior to the 2017-18 season, and is winless in six starts this season with an .883 save percentage.
With Tuukka Rask turning 33 in March, and backup Jaroslav Halak set to turn 35 in May, there would appear to be an opportunity for someone to step up down the road. Could Swayman be that guy?
“I really just believe in the coaching staff, that they’re going to make the best decisions for my development,” said Swayman. “I really have no say. I just want to stop pucks, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to do that.”
Harvard-BC is next
Harvard continued its ascent in the polls, moving up to No. 9 in the USCHO rankings and No. 6 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll after a 6-3 win at RPI.
Sophomore forward Casey Dornbach recorded his first career hat trick to earn ECAC Hockey Player of the Week honors. He leads the team in scoring with 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in six games and is second in the nation with an average of 2.0 points per contest.
The Crimson (6-0-0) have a big week ahead, starting with Friday’s home tilt with a Boston College squad that has won six in a row to move up in the rankings (14/12) at 8-4-0.
Harvard coach Ted Donato will have an interesting decision to make in choosing his goalie. Freshman Mitchell Gibson and senior Cameron Gornet are both 3-0 and are tied for the best save percentage in the nation at .955.
For BC, freshman goalie Spencer Knight has been in net for all 12 games, posting a .935 save percentage and a 1.92 goals against average. In Tuesday’s 6-2 win over Yale, 11 Eagles collected at least 1 point, with Logan Hutsko scoring a goal and adding an assist to extend his point streak to eight games (6 goals, 3 assists).
Next up for the Crimson will be a road game at Boston University on Tuesday night.
The Terriers fell to 4-5-5 after dropping a 4-0 decision to Sacred Heart on Tuesday at Agganis Arena.
It won’t get any easier for BU, which will face No. 2 Cornell (8-0-0) Saturday night for the seventh edition of Red Hot Hockey at Madison Square Garden.
“We didn’t play a good game,” said BU coach Albie O’Connell after the loss to Sacred Heart. “We weren’t willing to play competitive. We weren’t very willing to go to the net. We weren’t very willing to pass the puck.
“It was just the fundamentals of the game. We looked like we never played a game together. We looked like we’ve never been coached. It’s about as bad as it’s been since I’ve been here.”
Northeastern and New Hampshire will face off in Belfast for the Friendship Four tournament Friday. Princeton and Colgate will play in the second game, with the winners competing for the Belpot Trophy Saturday.
This is the second time in the tournament for the Huskies, who moved up in the rankings (12/13) after the weekend sweep of Maine.
Northeastern (8-4-2) played in the inaugural edition in 2015. UNH (6-5-1) is making its first appearance in the tournament, and coach Mike Souza said his team is excited for the opportunity.
“We’re proud to go over there to represent our university and our league,” said Souza. “We’ve done some prep work in terms of educating our players on the troubles in Belfast, and to really round out the experience for our kids. It’s an experience of a lifetime.”
Ralph Cox, UNH’s all-time leading scorer and the last player cut from the 1980 Olympic team, serves as an ambassador for the tournament, and will be with the team in Northern Ireland.