Pushing offense: Colin Swoyer stepping in to help Huskies’ offense from blue line

Photo courtesy of Sioux Falls Stampede Stampede defenseman Colin Swoyer jumps into the offensive zone during a game against the Force last January.

HOUGHTON — Considering the number of quality defensemen the Michigan Tech Huskies hockey program has lost over the past two seasons, it would make sense that they would need to restock in time for the start of the 2018-19 season. Enter righthanded defender Colin Swoyer. He arrives fresh off a junior career which saw him rack up 36 assists and 49 points over a two-year period with the United States Hockey League’s Sioux Falls Stampede in South Dakota.

Despite his strong offensive numbers, Swoyer plans to bring a two-way game to Michigan Tech.

“I would describe myself as a two-way defenseman with good offensive capabilities,” said Swoyer. “I feel like I’m a pretty good skater. I feel like I have pretty good hockey IQ and good vision.”

He sets the bar high for himself as he enters his first season as a Husky.

“I hope to be able to shut down the opponent’s top lines, be a good power play guy, be able to put up points, and also just be a good leader,” he said.

Joining the Huskies this fall brings Swoyer one step closer to his dream of finding a place to play in the National Hockey League.

“What’s motivated me in hockey is to try to make it to the NHL and to win a national championship, which is obviously my goal at Michigan Tech,” said Swoyer. “For the next four years, my motivation will be to win a national championship.”

In 2016, Swoyer left his home state of Illinois, where he was playing for the Chicago Steel, after being traded to the Stampede. The transition was a bit of shock to Swoyer at first, but he found a way to use that change to his advantage.

“I was originally drafted to Chicago, so I played there, and then I got traded,” he said. “It was kind of a shock to me and my family, so I had to mature pretty quickly moving away from home.

“My first year, I was in a perfect location because I felt like we weren’t the best in the league, so I got more opportunities then I would’ve if I was on a better team.”

Swoyer played 54 games for the Stampede during the 2016-17 season, scoring six goals and 13 points, not big numbers. In his second season, he saw an increase in all of his offensive numbers. He racked up 29 assists (22 more than his first season) and 36 points.

“I got more opportunities to be a leader, to be an assistant captain,” he said. “I was given more opportunities like power play (and) penalty kill. I was more of a role player.

“I really feel like my two years in Sioux Falls has definitely helped me become the player I am today.”

Every player’s journey to the college rink is unique. Swoyer committed to Michigan Tech after then-assistant coach Joe Shawhan approached him after a game during his final season with the Chicago Fury hockey club.

“I committed (to Tech) when I was a senior in high school,” said Swoyer. “Coach Shawhan approached me after one my games in Detroit.

“I’ve always kind of known about Michigan Tech, but I didn’t really understand where it was or how good of a school it really was. I just knew about their hockey program. That was the first big school that I really talked to.”

Swoyer has gotten to know Shawhan since and has come to trust his opinions.

“Coach Shawhan is, in my opinion, one of the best coaches in NCAA right now, so I had a really easy decision to make when they offered me (a spot on the roster),” said Swoyer.

Swoyer has tried to model his game around that of a Nashville Predators defenseman.

“One defenseman who always catches my eye is Roman Josi,” he said. “He’s a good skater. He’s a strong two-way defenseman. He puts up points. He’s on the penalty kill and the power play.

“He plays in all situations. He’s a leader. He’s a captain. I feel like that’s one of the defenseman that I definitely look out for.”

Swoyer believes that a player’s presence outside of the rink can create a bridge between their team and the community that they play for. he earned the Stampede’s community service award.

“I was given the opportunity to help out in different areas like going to the hospital, working at Culvers to deliver food, or read books to kids in elementary school,” he said. “I personally love doing that sort of stuff. I think the community gives us so much. I always just want to give back.”

In his eyes, this year’s Huskies have all the right tools to make the 2018-19 season another successful one.

“I really feel like the team that we have could be a national championship team,” he said. “I mean we have the coaching staff, we have the players to do it. It’s basically up to us now.”