ORONO – So who is the leading returning scorer for the University of Maine’s hockey team?
Technically, it is senior defenseman and co-captain Simon Danis-Pepin, who had four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 34 games.
But if you ask who is the top returning point-producer based on his last collegiate season, it would be junior center Kevin Swallow.
Swallow transferred to Maine from Dartmouth College last year and had to sit out the season under NCAA transfer rules. He was permitted to practice with the team but couldn’t play in games.
Two seasons ago, Swallow racked up 22 points on eight goals and 14 assists in 32 games for the Big Green.
“Last year was really tough for me … not being able to play,” said Swallow at the annual hockey media day Wednesday at Alfond Arena. “I was anxious all summer to get back in there.”
Swallow said although he couldn’t play in games, he thought he “improved a lot working with the coaches [in practices]. I learned the systems. I’m ready to get after it, for sure.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound native of Stanwood, Mich., who spent two years playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad, will play an integral role for the Bears.
Maine scored just 2.3 goals-per game last season and set two school records for offensive futility: being shut out six times and held to one goal or less 13 times. To go with that, Maine’s top six scorers off last year’s team are gone.
Maine went 13-18-3 overall, 9-15-3 in Hockey East. The Bears finished ninth.
“He brings a lot to our team,” said junior left wing Chris Hahn. “He has great hockey sense, he sees the ice unbelievable, he has good hands. He should be a good guy for us on the power play and, basically, in all situations.”
Senior right wing and co-captain Jeff Marshall concurred.
“He’s definitely going to help us offensively. He has great skills. I’m really looking forward to having him [out there]. He’s a great guy in the [locker] room and on the ice. He’s going to be a definite asset.”
Swallow said he wants to help the team out as much as he can.
“Whatever role Coach [Tim Whitehead] puts me in, I feel I can handle it. I want to help the team be successful this year,” he said.
Whitehead said he’s “really excited” to see what Swallow will contribute the next two years.
“When you sit out a year of hockey and you’re a competitive person like Kevin, he’s chomping at the bit. He’s anxious to get going and help the team. And we’re obviously very excited for him and happy he’s going to be with us this year,” said Whitehead.
The Bears will have their Blue-White intrasquad game on Saturday night at 7 at Alfond Arena. Maine will then play a pair of exhibition games at the University of New Brunswick on Oct. 10-11 before opening the season at the Alaska Gold Rush Tournament against Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks, respectively, on Oct. 17-18, in Fairbanks.
ICE NOTES: Danis-Pepin said the Bears learned a lot about themselves a year ago while missing the Hockey East playoffs for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
Maine did finish with five wins in its last six games but it was too little, too late.
“We came in thinking that just by wearing a Maine jersey, we’d get wins and all that. And then at the end of the year, we realized that if you worked as a team, that’s when the wins are going to come. That’s what we’ve got to work on. We’ve got to build from that.”