This weekend’s hockey series between the University of Maine and the visiting University of Alaska Anchorage will be special for UMaine junior goalie Jeremy Swayman.
Swayman is from Anchorage and said he attended countless Alaska Anchorage games growing up.
In addition, he has three friends from Alaska who play for the Seawolves.
Sophomore right wing Drake Glover and junior defenseman Aaron McPheters are from Anchorage, and sophomore winger Tanner Schachle hails from Wasilla, 43 miles from Anchorage.
Swayman and McPheters played together for the Alaska All Stars 14-under AA bantam team during the 2010-11 season. In 2013-14, the UMaine goalie was a teammate of Schachle with the Alaska Jr. Aces Midget 16 AAA club.
McPheters and Swayman each played for South Anchorage High School but at different times.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s a full-circle experience,” Swayman said. “We always talked about playing Division I hockey.
“We were kidding around about it this summer,” he said.
Schachle and McPheters eventually went on to play for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the North American Hockey League, although Schachle also spent a year in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Glover played for Weyburn in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and then Lone Star in the NAHL while Swayman played for Tri-City and Sioux Falls in the United States Hockey League.
Alaska Anchorage and the fellow WCHA member the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) have been under the microscope in recent years because massive budget cuts in the state have threatened those programs.
Swayman is hoping his home-state teams can stay afloat.
He pointed out there are only 60 Division I teams in the country, so it is important to not lose any of them.
Swayman is facing a team that was the lowest scoring team in Division I last season, averaging only 1.18 goals per game. And three of Alaska Anchorage’s top four scorers graduated.
The Seawolves went 3-28-3 last season, but Swayman said he expects a stiff challenge.
“It is their first weekend [of games] and they’re going to come out firing,” Swayman said. “We’ve got to be ready for them.”
Swayman has not received much offensive support. The Black Bears have scored just two goals over their last four games dating back to two 2-1 losses to Northeastern in the Hockey East quarterfinals last season. Providence shut out UMaine 7-0 on Saturday, and New Brunswick blanked the Black Bears 5-0 on Sunday.
“Last year was last year, and I don’t even want to talk about last weekend. We’ve moved on,” UMaine head coach Red Gendron said. “We have to get more pucks and bodies to the net and get inside their defense. We can’t pass up shots to try to make pretty plays.”
He believes UMaine will be tested by the Seawolves.
“They work and skate and compete for 200 feet, and they’re physical. Their coach [Matt Curley] has them playing the right way,” Gendron said.