Chemistry, continuity and health.
Those are the three keys to Mitchell Swanson’s high-scoring season.
The Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines left wing is the fourth leading scorer in the state. He is on a line with fellow seniors Christian Berg and Bridger Pettit, who have combined to score 69.3 percent of W-DC’s goals. All three rose through the hockey ranks together, but didn’t play on the same line until recently.
“Actually, Christian played defense up until bantams,” said Swanson. “Then they always split Bridger and me up just to even up the scoring. It didn’t take us long at all to get on the same page. I think after the first practice we were good. We’ve played on the same team every year. We know each other’s tendencies and stuff like that. So it didn’t take us long at all.”
W-DC is on a five-game winning streak. In those five games, Swanson amassed 11 goals and eight assists. He posted three goals and an assist in a 10-1 win over Breckenridge Jan. 22. In that game, Swanson became the 14th W-DC player to reach 100 career points.
He currently has 71 goals and 46 assists to tie Zach Maas with 117 career points on W-DC’s all-time list.
“I have surprised myself,” said Swanson, who plans on attending North Dakota State University next season. “I didn’t think this type of season was going to happen. I owe a lot of it to Bridger and Christian. They like to go in the corners and get the puck out of there. I usually just try to get open and they find me in the slot and I put it away.”
Swanson followed his milestone night with five goals and an assist against Bagley-Fosston Jan. 24 and two assists against Kittson Central Jan. 26.
Through W-DC’s 5-4 win over Detroit Lakes Jan. 31, Swanson has 40 goals and 20 assists for 60 points.
Of those goals, eight are on the power play and four are shorthanded. Four of his goals have been game winners. He has a plus/minus of 22.
The four-year varsity skater is fourth in the state with 60 points. He is tied for the lead in the state with Tanner Picht of Morris/Benson for goals scored.
“Mitchell has that unique ability to see the ice really well,” said W-DC head coach Chris Holman. “He has that ability where he can pull up in the middle of the play, while all the defenders are still skating by hard. He can stop and reverse directions and in that second, he can look to find the open ice. He doesn’t force the play.
“He’s always been a goal scorer. After last season, when we went 1-24, we weren’t expecting to have the leading goal scorer in the state on our team.”
Swanson holds the school record, which since has been tied by linemate Pettit, of eight points in a game. That came in a 10-5 win Jan. 4 at Greenway. Swanson tallied seven goals, also a school record, and an assist. He’s had three six-point games this season, including a season-opening, five-goal and one-assist night against Ely. Swanson said the team’s opening weekend was key to their current 11-8 record.
“That was probably the biggest thing that could have happened to us,” said Swanson. “We got our confidence up right away. That first weekend we went 2-0 and knew then that we could have a pretty special season. Those first two games were huge.
“We knew we would have a better chance at success. I don’t think we were expecting this, though.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: EJ Ziegler, Pillager, finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds against Verndale, 27 points and 22 rebounds against Parkers Prairie and 25 points and 15 rebounds against New York Mills.
Nathan Ehnstrom, Aitkin, finished with 26 points Pine City.
Collin Eckman, Little Falls, finished with 23 points against Albany.
Troy Scott, Little Falls, finished with 24 points against Thief River Falls.
Cullen Carter, Pierz, finished with 22 points and nine rebounds against Eden Valley-Watkins.
Seth Auger, Staples-Motley, finished with 26 points against Bertha-Hewitt.
Hockey: Michael Stumpf, Little Falls, finished with 21 saves in a 6-0 win over Alexandria.
Bridger Pettit, Wadena-Deer Creek, became 15th player in school history to reach 100 career points against Kittson Central.
Wrestling: Anthony Phillipson, Nate Adkins, Nick Gravdahl, Drey Loge and Justin Mackenthun, Pequot Lakes-Pine River-Backus, all won Mid-State Conference championships.
Blake Miller and Jordan Heldman, Staples-Motley, won Mid-State Conference championships.
Jake Braton, Brian Wold, Jarod Novak and Isaac Novak, Aitkin won individual titles at the Skip Nalan tournament.
Evan Woitalla and Brad Meyer, Pierz, won individual titles at the Veldman Invite.