ORONO — Even though he saw limited playing time, University of Maine freshman hockey goalie Jeremy Swayman called his time spent with Team USA at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championships in Buffalo, New York, an “incredible experience” and extremely beneficial.
He played the final 3:19 of the 9-3 victory over the Czech Republic in the bronze medal game and stopped all four shots he faced.
He had also played in an exhibition game against silver medalist Sweden.
It didn’t take Swayman long to make an impact with UMaine after returning as he made 31 saves in posting his first career shutout on Saturday night, 3-0 over Boston University at Agganis Arena in Boston. He beat former USA teammate Jake Oettinger, who was in goal for BU and made 34 stops.
The bronze medal game was last Friday.
“Teammates one day, enemies the next. That was pretty fun,” Swayman said.
He said getting his first career shutout was special.
“Especially being at BU. It’s a really nice arena and there was a big crowd. It was just nice to finally get that first one off my back. Hopefully, there will be more for the team,” Swayman said.
He said the World Junior experience was just what he expected.
“There were a lot of high-quality players in the locker room who had the same goal in mind. It was fun to be around that kind of environment. I feel like I learned so much just being around such a high-quality group of guys and how they come to the rink and execute their games. I feel like I brought a lot of positives back.
“From the coaching staff standpoint, they have high expectations for each player. So, basically, every day I learned how to compete even harder. Just to compete at that high level, at a potentially pro level, was absolutely phenomenal,” Swayman added.
He also benefited from facing the type of shooters he saw in practice every day.
“Seeing those kinds of quality shots, the plays they make, the patience they have, really helped me improve my game,” Swayman added.
It didn’t bother him not to play much.
“We embraced our roles. USA Hockey did a great job bringing the team together in a short amount of time,” the Alaska native said. “I really felt the other 22 players were brothers to me by the end of the trip. I feel like I made friends for life.”
He said he bonded well with Oettinger and Boston College goalie Joseph Woll, who handled most of the goaltending chores.
UMaine seniors Nolan Vesey and Mark Hamilton said playing for Team USA has helped Swayman.
“That gave him that much more confidence,” Vesey said.
“He played a great game at BU,” Hamilton said.
Swayman goes into the series against high-powered Northeastern with the nation’s fifth-best save percentage (.932) and 23rd best goals-against average (2.37). He has an 8-3-1 record for the 11-7-2 Black Bears and his .708 winning percentage is ninth best in the nation.
Swayman didn’t play in Monday night’s 4-4 tie at Brown as junior Rob McGovern handled the duty.
It does look like the Black Bears will be without sophomore center Tim Doherty for the Northeastern series, however.
Doherty, who has seven goals and nine assists and is tied for third on the team in points with 16, sustained an injury to his left arm against BU and didn’t play against Brown.
Doherty, the Hockey East Rookie of the Month for December, was wearing a sling on his arm before practice on Wednesday.
He owns an eight-game points streak (5 goals, 6 assists).
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.