On Tuesday, March 17, third-year men’s ice hockey goalie Jeremy Swayman officially signed with the Boston Bruins, just one day after he was named the 68th recipient of the Walter Brown Award. The award is presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England. The last Maine player to win this award was forward Mike McHugh in 1988. McHugh scored 29 goals while collecting 37 assists in 44 games during his career.
Swayman was selected 111th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2017 NHL draft after playing a season for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL before he began his college career with the Black Bears. In his first year at Maine, Swayman averaged 2.72 goals against, while saving 92% of shots, boasting a record of 15-13-3. Red Gendron, the team’s head coach, was still in the process of building up his team’s chemistry and refining their play, looking to get Maine back to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012 in the coming seasons.
In his second season, Swayman saw a slight drop in his goals-against average, dipping to 2.78, but maintained his same save percentage of 92% while boasting a record of 15-17-4 in the net, starting every game for Maine. The Black Bears finished sixth in the conference, performing well against teams in their division but falling eventually to a strong Northeastern University team in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
This season, Swayman’s last with the Black Bears, he took a major step forward in his play, recording a strong goals-against average of 2.07, saving 94% of shots taken on him, all while locking down Maine’s back end en route to an 18-11-4 record. His improved level of play saw him receiving recognition throughout the NCAA, as Swayman was ranked in the top 15 for his goals-against average out of 71 goalies around the league. Swayman was ranked second in the Hockey East for goals-against average after facing a total of 1099 shots on goal, only 71 of which he let by. Swayman was a huge part of Maine’s success this season, giving them an opportunity to play in the Hockey East quarterfinals against Connecticut before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak pandemic.
Maine will return next season without several key players who are graduating this year, including Swayman and six other fourth-year players, forwards Ryan Smith, Mitchell Fossier, Samuel Rennaker, Tim Doherty and Patrick Shea, as well as goalie Stephen Mundinger. Shea was selected 192nd overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2015 NHL draft, and will likely sign with the Panthers’ minor league affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, based out of Massachusetts. Shea looks to join 2019 graduate Brady Keeper, who signed with the Thunderbirds after going undrafted upon finishing his collegiate career.
After having one of the best seasons in the past decade, the Black Bears will look to pull in some top recruits this spring. Maine currently has third-year defenseman J.D. Greenway, selected 72nd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016, anchoring the team, in addition to first-year goaltender Matthew Thiessen. Thiessen looks to fill the massive skates left by Swayman’s departure, though there’s no question about his potential as he’s already been drafted in the 2018 draft by the Vancouver Canucks. Though Maine is seeing a plethora of talent depart, they are retaining their staff and will aim to continue developing younger players to similar heights.