Anchorage’s Mac Swanson continues to take his game to the next level – and finds he belongs.
Playing for Team USA in the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament last week in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Swanson had an assist in all four USA games and also scored his first international goal in the win. Friday’s 8-2 against Slovakia.
The Americans finished second in the hockey showcase after losing 6-4 to the Czech Republic on Saturday, but the experience was an outright win for Swanson.
“It’s awesome,” said Brian Swanson, Mac’s father, who played professionally in the NHL and in Europe after a stint with the US national team. “I’ve been blessed in my career to wear the United States jersey, and for those kids too, it’s a once in a lifetime thing. … It’s really cool for these kids to be able to do that.
Mac Swanson helped a Team Alaska squad of 15-year-olds qualify for the Nationals last winter, then he was part of the USA selection team for the Five Nations tournament earlier this summer. From there, he quickly realized he wasn’t out of his league.
“Once you’re comfortable after a few practices, you know you can play at this level,” Mac Swanson said.
Swanson, a 5-foot-7, 163-pound center, won’t rest on his laurels for long. After returning from the Five Nations Tournament in Colorado, he will spend approximately 10 days at his home in Anchorage preparing for the next challenge.
After standing up to some of the best players in the world under the age of 17, he will next take on elite North American competition when he travels to Fargo, North Dakota to play junior-level hockey. I.
He will be the youngest player in the Fargo Force roster in a league restricted to players under 20. Being a little smaller and younger doesn’t concern him.
“I kind of let my game take care of itself,” he said.
Also, going up against guys bigger and older than him won’t be completely unheard of.
When he was a kid and his dad was with the Alaska Aces of the East Coast Hockey League a decade ago, he remembers spirited knee hockey games with his dad’s teammates off the ice at Sullivan Arena.
“I remember playing pretty much every morning, going to their practices,” Swanson said. “I played before and after training. … Scott Howes, he was on my dad’s line, he was a younger guy, like 23 or 24, and he was right into it. He was the main guy I played with. We fought all the time. It was funny.”
Playing against older competitors will only be part of the adjustment for Swanson. He also leaves home until Christmas and lives with a foster family.
“It will be the first time I’ve been away from my parents for more than two weeks. It will be different, but I’m excited about it,” he said.
The move also means he will not be attending West High School, where he was a sophomore last year.
“I’ll do it online through the Anchorage School District,” he said, “(I’ll) probably do my homework every day before practice, maybe after.”
He expects to meet with his high school counselor later this week to determine his class schedule.
This probably won’t include the gym.
“I hope I get credit for playing hockey,” he said.