With only 40 seconds remaining during his first appearance as a Waterloo Black Hawk, Nick Swaney scored his first USHL goal, setting the final score at 7-3 in a decisive home win against the Dubuque Fighting Saints.
For many Black Hawks fans, that moment has likely been crowded out by the many other remarkable performances from the Minnesota-Duluth recruit. During his time in Waterloo, Swaney was a clutch scorer. On average during his 120 regular season appearances, he scored the winning goal every eighth game. Overall, he was just short of being a point-per-game performer.
All of those goals and assists are tough to keep track of, but with the NHL draft coming up this week, here are five games we hope the scouts remember:
#5 – May 7, 2016
Black Hawks 7, Tri-City 4
Facing must-win circumstances in a playoff elimination game, Swaney came through. His mid-first period shorthanded assist helped the Hawks establish a 2-0 lead, but that margin was gone in the second. Tied at 2-2, Swaney gave Waterloo a new lead with a well-targeted shot from the left circle during a power play. During the third, the score was 4-3 when he lifted in the eventually winner on the rebound of Liam Pecararo’s first shot. Swaney completed his hat trick in the vital victory by scoring into an empty net with 61 seconds to go.
#4 – November 18, 2016
Black Hawks 3, Green Bay 2 (OT)
Green Bay goaltender David Hrenak was one of the leading NHL Draft prospects playing in the USHL last season, and on this evening he was superb against versus Waterloo. Swaney sent the Hawks’ 42nd shot past him to secure an overtime victory. The opportunity came during the first minute of extra time with Waterloo on a power play; Swaney backpedaled while picking his spot and rifled his shot under the crossbar. Earlier in the game, the veteran forward had set up the game-tying goal; less than a minute remained in the second period when Mason Palmer took Swaney’s feed while in position to squeeze a shot past the star netminder.
#3 – October 14, 2016
Black Hawks 2, Sioux City (OT)
Another overtime and another star goaltender who had to be overcome. It looked as though Matiss Kivlenieks would turn away everything during Waterloo’s first encounter with the 2016/17 USHL Player of the Year. Just 5:38 remained in regulation with Waterloo trailing, 1-0. Shane Bowers corralled the puck behind the Musketeer net and feathered it to Swaney, who picked the top corner. The teams were still tied at 1-1 as play moved end-to-end in over time. At 5:19, the Hawks used the same combination in reverse order to score the winner. Swaney sprang Bowers on a breakaway with a 70-foot pass, and Bowers finished the chance with a low wrister.
#2 – March 17, 2016
Black Hawks 6, Muskegon 5
In this case, overtime was not required, but just barely. Only 0.9 seconds remained when Swaney scored the goal which boosted the Hawks to an improbable win. With goalie Devin Cooley stretched flat after an initial save on Pecararo, Swaney didn’t miss his chance to win the game in regulation. The Hawks had trailed 2-0, 4-2, and 5-3 over the course of the matchup. Swaney also contributed to the comebacks. Just past the halfway point of the second period, he scored a shorthanded goal on a rebound from Ronnie Hein’s first try. Shortly before intermission, Swaney had also notched a power play assist on a tally by Jake Ryczek.
#1 – January 15, 2016
Black Hawks 4, NTDP U-18s 3 (OT)
By comparison, there was time to spare as the Hawks squeezed out a win against many of the top American players eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft. Six seconds still showed on the overtime clock when Swaney fired the puck past NTDP’s Joseph Woll after Hein had won the draw toward the slot moments earlier. Swaney put nine shots on net during the contest and finished with three points. He also scored during a second period power play, thanks to the bounce from Michael Davies’ initial point shot. Waterloo’s first lead had resulted in part from a Swaney assist on a Pecararo goal during the last minute of the opening period.
Swaney moved from 182nd to 138th between January and April in the pre-draft rankings issued by NHL Central Scouting. The 2017 NHL Draft will be conducted in Chicago this Friday and Saturday.