Anchorage’s Mac Swanson keeps taking his game to the next level — and discovering 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 U.S. games and also scored his first goal on the international level in Friday’s 8-2 win over Slovakia.
The Americans finished second in the hockey showcase after losing 6-4 to Czechia on Saturday, but the experience was an absolute win for Swanson.
“It’s great,” said Brian Swanson, Mac’s father, who played professionally in the NHL and Europe after a stint with the U.S. national team. “I was fortunate with my career to put on the USA jersey, and for these kids too, it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing. ... It’s just really cool for these kids to be able to do that.”
Mac Swanson helped a Team Alaska squad of 15-year-olds make nationals last winter, and then he made the U.S. select team for the Five Nations tourney earlier this summer. From there, he realized quickly he wasn’t out of his league.
“Once you get comfortable after a couple of practices, you know you can play at that level,” Mac Swanson said.
Swanson, a 5-foot-7, 163-pound center, won’t be resting on his laurels for long. After returning from the Five Nations Tournament in Colorado, he will spend about 10 days at home in Anchorage getting ready for the next challenge.
Having held his own against some of the world’s best players under the age of 17, next he will measure himself against elite North American competition when he goes to Fargo, North Dakota, to play Tier I junior hockey.
He will be the youngest player on the Fargo Force roster in a league for players up to 20 years old. Being a little smaller and younger doesn’t concern him.
“I kind of let my play take care of itself,” he said.
Plus, taking on guys bigger and older than him won’t be completely unfamiliar.
When he was a kid and his dad was with the Alaska Aces of the East Coast Hockey League a decade ago, he recalls spirited games of knee hockey with his dad’s teammates off ice at Sullivan Arena.
“I remember playing basically every morning I would go to their practices,” Swanson said. “I would play before and after practice. ... Scott Howes, he was on my dad’s line, he was a younger guy, like 23 or 24, and he was just into it. He was the main guy I played. We battled all the time. It was funny.”
Playing against older competitors will only be part of the adjustment for Swanson. He’s also leaving home until Christmas and living with a billet family.
“It will be the first time being away from my parents for more than two weeks. It’ll be different, but I’m excited about it,” he said.
The move also means he won’t be attending West High School, where he was a sophomore last year.
“I’ll be doing it online through the Anchorage School District,” he said “(I’ll) probably do homework every day before practice, maybe after.”
He expects to meet with his high school counselor later this week to figure out his class schedule.
It probably won’t include gym.
“Hopefully I’ll get some credits for playing hockey,” he said.