PROVIDENCE – Jeremy Swayman is making a splash in his freshman season at Maine.
With a Hockey-East-leading save percentage of .926, the 19-year-old goalie from Anchorage, Alaska, is making the Boston Bruins look smart for drafting him in the fourth round last June.
“A lot of it has to do with the teammates around me — blocking shots, making plays to get the puck out of our end. A lot of my success has been team success. It’s been a team effort the entire way. All that matters to us is the two points at the end of the game,’’ he said over the phone this week.
Swayman and the Black Bears will be in Rhode Island on Friday night to play Providence College. They dropped a 3-0 decision to the Friars in Belfast, Ireland, in November as Swayman stopped 35 shots.
PC assistant coach Kris Mayotte coached Swayman — who is 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds — with the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship last month in Buffalo.
“Big, strong, athletic kid. Competes. Hard-working. Likes to be coached,’’ Mayotte said.
Swayman played for Sioux Falls of the USHL last season, where he was a teammate of Friar Jason O’Neill.
In the 2015-16 season he made the jump from Alaska high school hockey to the U-18 Pikes Peak Miners. That wasn’t the plan heading into the season, but it ended up working out well for him.
“It was a pretty crazy deal. I tendered to the Kenai River (Alaska) Brown Bears in the NAHL. I ended up not making the team, so I was kind of in a scramble to find a team. I was still set on playing juniors, but there was kind of a pipeline from Alaska going to this team in Colorado that I’d heard of a little bit in Pikes Peak,’’ Swayman said.
“I got a hold of the coach and told him my situation. In Alaska hockey at that time, there weren’t any legit U-18 teams. (Moving) to Colorado was one of the best decisions of my hockey career. The coach, Greg Vanover, took me under his wing and really gave me every opportunity to succeed. I learned what hard work was, that’s for sure. It’s definitely a reason why I’m here today.’’
Swayman has adjusted well to Hockey East, posting a 12-7-3 record for the surprising Black Bears. He said he is always working to simplify his game.
“It’s a positioning game. You learn to relax during games and get your positioning down. It helps you see the puck a lot better. I’m always working on that every game, getting your angles and your positioning down and getting your feet set to stop the puck,’’ he said.
Swayman has assistant coach Alfie Michaud, who backstopped Maine to the 1999 NCAA title, working with him in Orono. Another former Maine great, 1993 NCAA champ Mike Dunham, is keeping a close watch, too, as goalie development coach for the Bruins.
“They’ve got a young team and, playing in Hockey East, there are going to be some learning curves. He’s handled it well and he seems to be enjoying it, which is the key. It’s a good fit up there for him.
“He works hard. He wants to learn. He studies the game. His skating ability around the crease is very strong. Obviously, he’s going to need to gain more experience, as a young kid playing at the Division I level. He’s got the right mindset and the right attitude. He’s quick, he’s square to the puck. It’s just gaining experience, at that age,’’ said Dunham who was in Orono last Friday when Swayman stopped 36 Merrimack shots in a 4-3 overtime win.
“Gave his team a chance to win. That’s what you want.”
Swayman appreciates Dunham’s input.
“Mike Dunham has been really instrumental in helping me as a player. He’s been to several of my games and he’s always been right there asking what I need help with and giving me pointers. I’ve picked his brain quite a bit and I’ve used a lot of his tools and put them into my game.
“He’s telling me to enjoy the process. He’s been there and told me some pretty good stories. To get that connection right off the bat with a guy like him has been a really good thing. It’s been cool to create a relationship with him,’’ Swayman said.
When the Black Bears were in Providence to play Brown in early January, the team attended a P-Bruins game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, where Swayman could be playing down the road.
“It was really cool. It was definitely a pro atmosphere. The game was fast and the rink was amazing. It gives me more motivation to get to that next level,” he said.
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