Chemistry on the ice helps Swavely brothers provide weekend boost for Maine hockey team

Posted Jan. 28, 2013, at 6:31 p.m.
Jon Swavely
Jon Swavely
Steven Swavely
Steven Swavely

ORONO, Maine — The facial features are somewhat similar.

But one of them stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 190 pounds and the other is 5-9, 175 pounds.

“We call them the Little Big Swaves,” sophomore center Stu Higgins said of his University of Maine hockey teammates the Swavely brothers, Jon and Steven.

Jon is a junior right winger and is the smaller of the two. Steven is a freshman center. Jon is 23 and is nearly 2½ years older than Steven.

Eleven sets of brothers have played in the UMaine hockey program and the Swavelys are the ninth to play together at UMaine after Jim and John Tortorella (1978-79,’79-80, ’80-81), Jack and David Capuano (’86-87, ’87-88), Chris and Peter Ferraro (’92-’93), Jason and Shawn Mansoff (’96-’97), Anders and Magnus Lundback (’97-’98, ’98-’99), Chris and Barrett Heisten (’99-’00), Matt and Mike Lundin (’04-’05, ’05-’06) and John and Keenan Hopson (’05-’06, ’06-’07).

Brothers Paul, Steve and Marty Kariya all played at Maine but were never teammates and the same for Eric and Jason Weinrich.

The Swavelys, who are both right-hand shots, have similar interests and enjoy being on the same line, which has been the case seven times this season.

Maine coach Tim Whitehead said the brothers are outgoing with good senses of humor.

“And they’re very comparable players,” said Whitehead. “They both play hard and they’re good defensively. Jon has more speed and Steven has more size. They’re both capable of pitching in offensively, too. They have chemistry together.”

Whitehead often has them paired on the penalty kill.

“Jon is smaller but he’s still a very physical guy who likes to get in the corners,” said Higgins. “They can both muck it up. And when they’re playing with a guy like Will Merchant and they get some openings, they can put the puck in the net. It adds up well.”

The brothers played the first three games of the season together with Conor Riley on the left wing but Jon suffered a torn quadriceps blocking a shot and wound up having surgery which sidelined him for 12 games.

After returning, Jon eventually found himself on a checking line with Mark Anthoine and Higgins before being reunited with his brother.

They played their sixth and seventh games as linemates over the weekend in the stunning 4-1 and 3-1 sweep of Boston College. Jon had two goals and an assist and the third member of the line, freshman left wing Merchant, had a goal and two assists. Steven Swavely didn’t register any points but each member of the line was plus-two on the weekend. Players are awarded a plus-one if they are on the ice when the team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if the other team scores one.

Steven has one goal and five assists in 25 games while Jon has 2 & 3 in 13.

“I feel more comfortable playing with him,” said Steven Swavely. “He knows where I am and I know where he is. If I make a mistake, he covers for me. If he makes a mistake, I cover for him. The chemistry we have makes it fun.”

“He’s easy to play with,” said Jon. “I know where he’s going to be. There’s a chemistry there because we’ve played together our whole lives.

“It’s an honor. Not many people can say they played college hockey with their brothers,” added Jon, who works out with his brother during the off-season.

One of the interesting aspects of their upbringing is they are from a basketball family and a nontraditional hockey area: Reading, Pa.

Their father, Gary Jr., and an uncle were outstanding basketball players.

“What happened is my father took my mother [Susan] to a [Philadelphia] Flyers game. She didn’t want to go. But she did and she loved it,” said Steven.

That led to the boys getting involved in hockey.

“It was kind of a shocker. We ended the family [basketball] tradition,” said Jon.

The boys had to travel an hour one way to play youth hockey.

Jon used to bring his brother to the rink to skate with him beginning when Steven was 5.

“And the basketball court in the backyard used to freeze over in winter so we’d play out there,” said Steven.

As close-knit as they are, they said they are extremely competitive with each other.

“It’s full-on, all the time,” said Jon. “The day before I was supposed to get my school picture taken before my sophomore year, he cut me with his stick under my eye. We had been going at it pretty good.”

“And he has cut me with his stick before playing street hockey,” said Steven.

They don’t live together on campus but they spend a lot of time together.

“Their personalities are the same,” said Maine senior defenseman and tri-captain Mike Cornell. “They are both highly motivated and they’re both hard workers. They come from a good family.

“Steven is a little more uptight and Jon is more laid back. They’re both good kids. You don’t have to worry about them in the classroom,” said Cornell.

“It’s funny watching them interact,” said Higgins who said they have the “same mannerisms but completely different personalities.”

Jon Swavely was chosen the Hockey East Co-Player of the Week and Steven was proud of his big brother.

“I saw how hard he worked [to get back after the quadriceps surgery]. He deserves it,” said Steven.

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