The busiest goaltender in college hockey was rewarded for his efforts in a big way Saturday night.
Maine junior standout Jeremy Swayman (Anchorage, Alaska) was named the recipient of the Mike Richter Award, given to the nation’s top goaltender in college hockey. The Mike Richter Award coincided with the announcement of the Hobey Baker Award, presented during a live broadcast of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” Saturday (April 11) evening.
“It’s an incredible honor and I know that I’m joining elite company,” Swayman said. “It doesn’t seem real until it finally happens. Now that it’s official and everything’s done, it’s definitely cool to take a breath and look back on the accomplishment.”
The award is named after goaltending legend and Stanley Cup champion Mike Richter, who played his entire 14-year career with the New York Rangers. Swayman’s father, Ken, is well-aware of Richter’s accomplishments, having grown up in Brooklyn, New York.
“Naturally, he was a Rangers fan and we actually have a picture of [Richter] hanging in our house to this day,” Swayman said. “We’re definitely fans of his and for this to come full circle now, and to receive an award with his name on it is pretty special.”
Swayman beat out Matthew Galajda (Cornell), Spencer Knight (Boston College), Dryden McKay (Minnesota State) and Michigan’s Strauss Mann for the honor. Swayman is the seventh winner of the Richter Award, joining the likes of Winnipeg Jets star Connor Hellebuyck and Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks, among others.
“It’s just an incredible feeling being in the same group as the guys who have come before me,” Swayman said. “I couldn’t be more excited to be part of that group now. It was nerve-wracking because all of the goalies are equally deserving of this award. Just to be in the final five was an honor in itself.”
Swayman led the nation with a school-record 1,099 saves and finished second in the country with a .939 save percentage. He played more than 2,060 minutes, finishing with three shutouts and a 2.07 goals-against average.
Swayman allowed just 71 goals while facing 1,170 shots this season. He started 33 of 34 Maine games and played all but seven minutes this season. He stopped more than 30 shots 25 times, and more than 40 twice, including a season-high 52 shots.
Swayman was named AHCA All-American East First Team, the Hockey East Player of the Year and First Team All-Conference.
“In my eyes, it’s a team award more than anything,” Swayman said. “Even though this is an individual award, hockey is a team game, and this couldn’t have happened without the guys in front of me, battling all year.”
Swayman, along with winning the Mike Richter Award, was a top-three finalist for the 2020 Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top NCAA men’s ice hockey player. Scott Perunovich, a junior defenseman from the University of Minnesota Duluth, won this year’s Hobey Baker Award, while Jordan Kawaguchi, a junior forward from the University of North Dakota, was a finalist, along with Swayman.
“Getting down to the final three was an honor in itself and hats off to [Perunovich] and Jordan for their incredible seasons,” Swayman said. “I know they’re going to have great careers in their future and I’m so honored to be in that elite company with them. I was happy to represent the University of Maine, and I definitely couldn’t have been there without my great coaches and teammates.”
Swayman was a teammate with Perunovich as the two represented the United States during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and captured a bronze medal.
“USA Hockey is a world class organization, and when I got to experience it first-hand, at the highest level at world juniors was incredible,” Swayman said. “Meeting [Perunovich] and getting to be friends with him, and meeting all of the other players … they’re all phenomenal players and people, as well. I made friends for life and I’m so thankful for an experience that I’ll forever cherish.”
Swayman prepares for a faceoff during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y.
Swayman, a fourth-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 2017, will forego his senior season at Maine to turn pro and join the Bruins’ organization.
“I talked with all of my mentors and coaches and they agreed that I did what I needed to do at the college level,” Swayman said. “Having confidence is key to going to the next level, so I’m going to take the summer and make sure that I’m doing everything I can to prepare for my first pro season. At the end of the day, my job is to stop the puck and I couldn’t be more excited to do that.”
Now, Swayman is excited to get back to playing hockey, but he won’t be able to do that until the country is through the current coronavirus pandemic. He’s appreciative of the sacrifices made by others.
“I just want to make sure that everyone is on the same page with the pandemic,” Swayman said. “It’s an unprecedented time, so I want to thank everyone on the front lines, in the medical field, the grocery stores and everywhere else to really help this world get back to normal.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.