It has been a roller coaster season for University of Maine sophomore goalie Jeremy Swayman, but Saturday’s career-high 53 saves in the 4-3 victory over No. 2 University of Massachusetts could be just what he needs to put together a memorable stretch run and help the Black Bears move up the standings.
Swayman, a Hockey East All-Rookie Team choice last season, made 20 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves Saturday, including a penalty shot and a breakaway.
After misplaying a long wrist shot and having it deflect in off his glove on the first shot he faced in Friday night’s 4-2 loss, he stopped 91 of the next 96 shots he saw over the weekend against the second-highest scoring team in the country (3.79 goals per game).
Two of the goals were power-play goals and UMass has the nation’s second-best, power-play percentage (31.2 percent). The Minutemen also scored an empty-net goal on Friday.
Swayman said a pregame chat with senior backup goalie Rob McGovern on Saturday night proved extremely valuable.
“He gave me his knowledge and he helped me simplify my game,” Swayman said. “It really helped a lot.
“I went back to what I know best: Keeping it simple, seeing the puck all the way in,” Swayman said. “I knew they could zip the puck and like to funnel it to the net so I stayed mid-ice and trusted my abilities and athleticism to stop that first shot and the second one if it happened.”
UMaine head coach Red Gendron said Swayman was composed and relaxed.
The fourth-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his 24 starts and Saturday’s game was the eighth time he has surrendered three in a game. He also has given up four or more six times, including two seven-goal games.
Swayman’s 2.99 goals-against average is among the worst (57th) for Division I starters and his save percentage (0.914) is 31st. Last season, he had a 2.72 GAA and a 0.921 save percentage.
UMaine junior co-captain Chase Pearson said Swayman is capable of stealing wins, as he did several times last season.
“He’s an amazing goalie. He’s one of the best goalies in Hockey East and in the country. He’s the backbone of our team,” Pearson said.
Gendron said inconsistencies come with the territory and are more obvious when they involve the goalie.
“When someone doesn’t score for a half-dozen games you take notice, but if a goalie makes a mistake it goes up on the scoreboard,” Gendron said. “The position comes with great responsibility and a mental makeup required to be successful.”
Gendron said Swayman prepares well consistently and is a stickler for taking care of his body.
Potent power play
Another positive for UMaine (9-12-3 overall, 5-6-3 HE) is its recent goal production and Saturday’s three power-play goals.
UMaine has scored 17 goals in its last four games (4.25 gpg) after averaging 2.2 over its first 20 games.
The Black Bears have had 12 different goal scorers over the last four games including three by sophomore left wing Emil Westerlund, who netted three after having only two over his first 18 games.
Freshman right wing Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup has scored twice after having three in his first 17 games, and senior left wing Brendan Robbins also has a pair after having two through his first 20 games.
UMaine went 3-for-5 with the man advantage after going four games without a power-play goal.
“Our power play has been better than its numbers,” Gendron said. “We rang a [power-play] shot off the post against [the University of New Hampshire].”
He said the power-play outburst and the victory were outstanding for the players’ confidence.
UMaine visits archrival New Hampshire (9-8-8, 5-5-5 HE) for games on Friday and Saturday nights.