BostonBruins.com - Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins' fourth-round selection (111th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, had a year to remember at the University of Maine. The third-year goaltender led the NCAA in saves with 1,099, while his .939 save percentage tied for second in the nation. He faced more shots during the 2019-20 season than any other goaltender in college hockey and maintained a 2.07 goals against average.
Swayman was lights out all season for the Black Bears, among the highlights a standout performance on March 6 against Providence College. The Anchorage, Alaska, native recorded an outstanding 48-save shutout in a 1-0 victory that clinched home ice for Maine in what would have been the Hockey East Quarterfinals - now canceled due to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.
"It was great," said Swayman. "It was probably one of the more fun games I've had at Alfond [Arena]. Most importantly, we got the 2 points that we really needed to clinch home ice for our team. It was a great effort and a great way to end the regular season."
University of Maine head coach Red Gendron was thrilled with Swayman's performance in the crucial game for the Black Bears.
"He was very good and he's been very good for us all year," said Gendron. "Over the last few weeks I think his play has risen even higher. That's fitting because he works at it. He works at it all the time. When you see a player like that have success and you know how much he invests with his preparation to perform, it's nice to see."
Maine was outshot by Providence, 48-24, and didn't score the first goal of the game until the 9:21 mark of the third period. In a game where the stakes were as high as they were all season, Swayman remained calm in the crease, as he did throughout the year.
"I like to think in the moment," said Swayman. "I just try to focus on the present moment and make sure I'm doing my job. I don't want to look too far ahead or look in the past with what's happened in the game. I like to just focus on the next shot and I think that helps in a long game like that."
Video: Swayman on University of Maine and hockey in Alaska
Prior to coming to Maine, Swayman spent one year with the Pikes Peak Miners of the North American Prospects Hockey League before being drafted by the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League.
As he has been throughout his career, Swayman was extremely effective with Pikes Peak, recording a .940 save percentage paired with a 1.79 goals against average in 18 games. This marked Swayman's first time playing hockey outside of his home state, an adjustment that came easy with a great head coach and billet family.
"The head coach there, Greg Vanover, is definitely a huge role model for me," said Swayman. "He changed my mentality on competing, winning and being a leader. I was actually an assistant captain on that team. He gave me a lot of opportunities to practice leadership.
"We had a great team there and my billet family was amazing. I still consider them family to this day. We keep in touch and I visited them last summer. That was, by far, one of the most incredible teams I've ever been a part of."
Growing up playing in Alaska, Swayman was set to stay home and play for the Kenai River Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League. However, ending up in Colorado was an experience that Swayman wouldn't trade for anything.
"It kind of seemed scripted at the time to go from midget to playing juniors in my hometown," said Swayman. "But I think it was kind of meant to be in the aspect of getting away from home and making sure that I was able to mature at an earlier age.
"I got put into such an amazing situation with my billet family. Staying with them and being with a coach like Greg Vanover really worked out great. I did my best there and ended up getting drafted to the USHL with Sioux Falls."
After spending one year in Sioux Falls, Swayman headed to Orono as a true freshman at University of Maine. In his freshman year, he started 31 games, recording a .921 save % paired with a 2.72 GAA. The following year, he started 35 games, notching a .919 save % with a 2.77 GAA. Now a junior, Swayman's .939 save % and 2.07 GAA have impressed all who have come in contact with the netminder.
"I believe I've taken steps forward each year," said Swayman. "That's a big thing for me - getting better every day and every year as well. A lot of credit goes to my goalie coach here, Alfie Michaud. He's been extremely valuable for me, not only for my on-ice performance, but my off-ice development as well.
"He's an incredible mentor. I have him right up there with Greg Vanover for my role models. He's been really special for me here. He takes the game, really simplifies it down, and I've definitely thrived off that."
Gendron has certainly noticed Swayman's growth from year to year as well.
"He was a true freshman when he got here and he's certainly matured," said Gendron. "His work habits and his focus on getting better already existed before he came here. However, the way he actually attacks those things has really improved with his maturity.
"You can't buy experience. You get experience only by having opportunities to play and grow. To Jeremy's credit, he's taken advantage of that. Alfie has been instrumental in Jeremy's development, both in terms of his maturation and how he handles situations with his play."
During his junior year with the Black Bears, Swayman made sure to take on a greater leadership role, something that may not be the first thing you think of with a goaltender.
"He's a vocal leader for sure," said Gendron. "What's even more powerful than that is how he goes about his business. He goes about his business the way a professional hockey player with the best possible habits goes about his business. Everybody in the room respects what he has to say because of how he works, prepares and plays. That's how you get your voice to have meaning."
Swayman agrees with Gendron, knowing that if he doesn't back up his words with his own habits, the words simply won't mean as much to his teammates.
"I definitely want to be vocal, but at the same time I want to practice what I preach," said Swayman. "A lot of times, doing things can be better than saying things. I want to be that steady heartbeat in the back and make sure the guys have complete faith and trust in me. Knowing that I'm going to do my job will hopefully give them confidence in being able to do their jobs as well."
With three Bruins development camps under his belt, the opportunity to one day wear the Spoked-B on his chest serves as a huge source of motivation for the goaltender.
"I've known I want to be part of an NHL organization for a long time, said Swayman. "Going into Development Camp, I was so excited to soak everything up like a sponge. Every year I've been there I've been welcomed with open arms. The staff, the players, and everyone gets along really well.
"It's a great competitive environment, but at the same time everyone wants to win together. I'm so honored to be part of such an incredible organization with a great winning culture."