ORONO, Maine — Sophomores Steven Swavely and Conor Riley have played important roles in Maine’s 10-7-2 season and they have been looking forward to Saturday’s 3 p.m. Frozen Fenway game against 7-10-2 Boston University.
But they also know that there are two valuable Hockey East points at stake. Maine is 4-2-1 in Hockey East and BU is 2-4-1 including a 7-0 loss at Maine.
“I definitely want to soak it up because you don’t get to do this very often. But as soon as the puck drops, it’s all business and we all know that,” said right wing Swavely.
“I’ve never played an outdoor game. It’s pretty exciting,” said defenseman Riley. “But we’ve got to be focused because it’s never easy to get Hockey East points.”
Both players have been versatile.
Swavely had been a center until being moved to right wing on Maine’s top line with Devin Shore and Connor Leen seven games ago. He has responded with four goals and two assists.
“They’re both good players,” said Swavely who now has 7 and 6 in 19 games after collecting 6 and 8 in 38 games a year ago.
Riley has two assists in 19 games but his value is best displayed on defense, where he has helped Maine limit opponents to two goals a game. He also played forward last year.
“Without question, Steven has elevated his game from the start of the year,” said Maine coach Red Gendron. “He’s playing in all situations. He plays the point and at forward on the power play, he’s on the penalty kill, he wins important face-offs, he blocks shots, he’s good on the wall and he generates offense.
“He’s a pretty good player,” smiled Gendron.
“I feel good about the way things have gone so far but I feel like I can do more. The coaches have given me confidence by putting me in positions I had never been in before [wing; power play point]. That has allowed me to expand my role,” said Swavely. “It’s very enjoyable. It’s a challenge you want. You want to keep getting better.”
Gendron said Riley has two things that make him a good player.
“He can really skate and he’s a very competitive, hard-nosed kid,” said Gendron. “His puck skills are pretty good and [the puck skills] will determine if he can go from being a better-than-average college defenseman to an exceptional college defenseman. He’s more than capable of doing that.”
“I started slow but, lately, I’ve been getting more and more confident,” said Riley. “I’d like to start jumping up into the play a little more because that was a big part of my game [before college]. But my main focus has been on playing real tough defense and shutting [opponents] down.”
Riley said being paired with Jake Rutt all season has been “great.”
“It’s good when you can stick with one partner. You get used to their tendencies and it helps your communication,” said Riley.
Swavely said he wants to work on quickening up his “first couple of steps” and releasing his shot quicker.
Maine continues to be led by Shore (9 and 14), Leen (3 and 14), defenseman Ben Hutton (7 and 7), Swavely and Anthoine (6 and 7) along with goalie Martin Ouellette, who has the nation’s eighth-best goals-against average (1.88) and save percentage (.936). Hutton is tied for the national lead in goals by a defenseman.
BU, which has scored just 10 goals during its current five-game winless streak (0-4-1), has the nation’s 10th and 11th highest-scoring defensemen in terms of points per game in Ahti Oksanen (3 and 12, 0.79 ppg) and Garrett Noonan (3 and 11, 0.78 ppg). Robbie Baillargeon (5 and 9) and Danny O’Regan (6 and 7) are its top-scoring forwards.