ORONO, Maine — Author Mark Twain once wrote, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
The University of Maine men’s hockey team has proved so far that you can overcome a lack of size and have a productive season.
Maine began the season as the second-shortest team among the nation’s 59 programs at 5-foot-11½ per player and the third lightest at 184.3 pounds per man.
The Black Bears enter this weekend’s home series against Merrimack College tied for fourth in Hockey East and 16th in the Pairwise Rankings that mimic the NCAA tournament selection process.
And two of the smallest Black Bears have been key contributors.
Freshman Cam Brown, a 5-foot-7, 150-pound freshman, is tied for fourth on the team in scoring with 16 points on four goals and 12 assists.
Senior Jon Swavely, at 5-9, 175, has been a gritty defensive specialist and penalty-killer who has also chipped in two goals and three assists.
Both are centers.
“The best way to look at those guys is through the size of their hearts,” said senior defenseman and captain Brice O’Connor. “They give everything they have every shift. They are two of the guys who compete the hardest. They do all the little things to get the job done. They do whatever the team needs.”
“They have been a huge part of our success,” said senior left wing and assistant captain Mark Anthoine. “They are nonstop workers who never get tired. They’re really quick. They beat guys to the puck and win puck battles. They’ll take hits to make plays. When you see guys doing things like that, everybody wants to jump on board.”
Swavely had been a scorer in Junior hockey.
“But when I came here, we had [current Swedish Olympian-Detroit Red Wing Gustav Nyquist] and all those guys and it was tough just to get into the lineup. So I honed my penalty-killing skills and took on [a defensive role]. I’m happy to be out there and doing what I can for the team,” said Swavely.
And he enjoys the attacking style of play utilized by first-year head coach Red Gendron.
“It’s a more aggressive style and that’s more my style. It’s fun,” said Swavely.
Brown said the adjustment to college hockey was made easier by the uptempo practices and his teammates.
“I try to use my quickness to my advantage,” said Brown. “I just want to keep contributing and help the team win.”
Brown said Swavely has been a valuable role model.
“I really look up to him as a senior. He works really hard,” said Brown.
“[Brown] has adjusted to the speed of the game pretty well,” Swavely said. “He has quick feet and quick hands. He’s very shifty.”
Gendron called them fearless.
“Jon has great tenacity and exceptional leadership skills in addition to being a special defensive player. He is an extremely effective player who has really improved the offensive part of his game,” said Gendron.
“Cam is a little slicker with the puck than Jon and his 16 points have been huge. He has scored some big goals and made some big plays. He has very good hockey smarts.”
Maine is 13-10-3 overall, 7-5-2 in Hockey East and is 10-1 at home. Merrimack is 7-16-3 (2-10-2 HE) and is 1-11-2 on the road.
Merrimack has gone 6-0-2 in the last eight regular-season meetings with Maine although Maine won a best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series in 2011-12.
Maine is led by center Devin Shore (12 goals, 20 assists), Ben Hutton (10 & 12), the nation’s top goal-scoring defenseman, left wing Connor Leen (4 & 15) and goalie Martin Ouellette (12-10-3, 2.08 goals-against average, .932 save percentage). Merrimack features senior left wing Mike Collins (8 & 11), defensemen Brendan Ellis (0 & 7) and Jordan Heywood (0 & 7) and junior goalie Rasmus Tirronen (6-9-3, 2.58, .904).