UMaine wing shrugs off setbacks, shots

Posted Dec. 28, 2009, at 9:22 p.m.

In the song “Born Under a Bad Sign” by the rock band Cream, one set of lyrics says, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

Welcome to Kevin Swallow’s world.

After transferring from Dartmouth College and sitting out the entire 2007-2008 season, the University of Maine left winger suffered a high ankle sprain in the annual Blue-White men’s hockey scrimmage a year ago and it set his Black Bear debut back four games.

This season, during the practice the day before the Blue-White scrimmage, he suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out two games.

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But he has been making up for lost time by becoming a valuable role player and penalty-killing specialist.

“I’ve been very proud of Kevin,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I really felt for him because he worked so hard over the spring and the summer to prepare himself. On the positive side, I reminded him that he would bounce back a lot quicker this year because he was in great shape and he did.

“When he returned, he made a difference right away. He has become a tremendous penalty-killer, shot blocker and defensive forward and he’s chipped in on offense, too, without getting any power-play time. Five-on-five, he’s been one of our best players.”

Swallow and his 9-7-1 Black Bears will return to action today at 4:05 p.m. when they take on 4-8-1 Princeton University in the Florida College Classic opener in Estero, Fla. Colorado College, 11-4-3, and Cornell, 7-2-2, meet in the 7:35 game in a battle between the nation’s third- and fourth-ranked teams, respectively.

“Things have been good,” said Swallow. “I’ve been able to help the team and the team is doing well so I’m happy.”

He admitted that when he suffered his shoulder injury after sustaining his ankle injury a year ago, it was “pretty rattling.

“But, luckily, I was able to bounce back a little quicker this year. That was nice,” he said.

“He has come a long way,” said sophomore defenseman Ryan Hegarty. “He has really been a big help this year. He has taken on a leadership role as a senior who has been here a long time and he has been doing a great job playing his role.”

Sophomore goalie Scott Darling said Swallow has been a goalie’s best friend.

“He blocks three or four shots a game, he’s always in the right place and he’s always getting back. He has been a great asset,” said Darling.

Swallow has chipped in two goals and four assists in 15 games and one of his goals and one of his assists have come while the Bears were shorthanded.

“I’ve been pretty happy with the way I’ve played,” said Swallow. “I try to help the team any way I can. We’ve had a good first half and, hopefully, we can keep it going in the second half.”

“Last year was a tough year, but I’ve got no complaints about this year,” added Swallow, who worked out pretty hard all summer in Milwaukee with Black Bear teammate Mark Nemec.

Swallow had just one goal and three assists in 25 games last season.

Swallow, who spent two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program before going to Dartmouth, doesn’t mind his defensive role.

“If I’m not scoring goals, I might as well help keep them out,” he reasoned.

Tourney an important indicator

Swallow and the rest of his mates know how important this tournament is. Last year, they suffered a 3-2 loss to Colgate on a goal with just one second left in overtime and then battled to a 3-3 tie with St. Cloud in the consolation game.

Maine won only three games the rest of the season.

“This tournament is definitely important,” said Swallow. “Last year, we had a good first half but struggled in Florida and that set the tone for the rest of the year. It would be nice to win some games in Florida and keep it going in the second half.”

“This tournament is where things started going south on us last year,” said junior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen. “So we really want to start well and these are quality opponents. It’ll be a good test for where we’re at.”

“These teams are actually better than the teams in last year’s tournament,” said Hegarty. “We have to come out ready to play. We can’t be thinking this is a vacation.”

The tourney features the nation’s seventh (Maine, 3.65 goals per game), eighth (Cornell, 3.64) and ninth (Colorado College, 3.56) highest scoring teams and the No. 1 (Cornell, 32.1 percent), No. 2 (Maine, 28.2 percent) and No. 5 (CC, 26.0) power plays.

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