St. Cloud Cathedral's Austin Swingle fails to make a glove save before the puck reaches Crusaders goaltender Josh Robak. Photo by Loren Nelson
Austin Swingle then
Austin Swingle grew up playing defense but was asked last season to play forward.
So he played forward.
Then his coaches asked him to move back to defense.
So he moved back to defense.
Forward, defense, forward, defense … Swingle, a St. Cloud Cathedral senior, has proven he will do most anything for the team.
“Heck, I might as well try goalie pretty soon here,” Swingle said with a smile.
Austin Swingle now
That’s just the half of it.
Swingle once sported one of the fullest beards and longest, most flowing locks of any player in the state. Crusaders coach Eric Johnson, worried that Swingle was getting the reputation of being a goon based purely on his Grizzly Adams-style abundance of hair, asked his senior swingman to clean up his look.
So Swingle got a haircut and shave.
“Reluctantly, but he did it,” Johnson said about Swingle’s hair removal during the holiday break. “He said, ‘Don’t say I never did anything for the team.’ ”
Swingle provided yet another big contribution on Friday, Jan. 11, when he scored on a power play in overtime to boost St. Cloud Cathedral past Hermantown 5-4 at the Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud.
The goal was typical of Swingle’s workmanlike style. He dug the puck out of the boards behind the goal, steamrolled his way past a Hermantown defenseman on his way to the side of net then powered the puck past poke-checking Hawks goaltender Jace Thomas.
The Crusaders (9-6-0) had lost three of four before beating the Section 5A rival Hawks, and the victory sparked a series of raucous celebrations. Hermantown (10-3-1) is ranked No. 4 in Class A; St. Cloud Cathedral is tied at No. 10.
“We haven’t beat Hermantown in four years that I’ve been here,” said Swingle, who shares the Crusaders’ scoring lead with 23 points. “This is not the end-all, be-all, but it definitely helps. We’ve had a lot of close ones lately, and it’s nice to finally pop one in there.”
The 6-foot-1½, 207-pound Swingle has played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League each of the last two years. Olson believes Swingle’s physical style will suit him well next season, when Swingle most likely will be playing junior hockey against older, stronger players.
At the high school level, well, Swingle and Olson believe a lower profile might lead to less time in the penalty box.
So off when the hair. Goodbye to the beard.
“I think it works, I haven’t been getting as many penalties,” Swingle said. “Today I think I got a boarding but I’m not even going to talk about that call.”
Surprisingly, Swingle said his parents were the most disappointed about him going to his new look.
“They liked the hair,” he said. “They said it was intimidating or something. I don’t know.”
Swingle said he’s received plenty of feedback from teachers and classmates, many of whom didn’t recognize him at first. Opposing players and even referees have chimed in with their comments, too.
“Most of the refs knew me so the see me and they are like, ‘What the heck happened to your hair and beard,” Swingle said. “It’s definitely a joke in between every period and every time I’m out on the ice. Most teams, I know someone on the team so they are always giving me a hard time about cutting my hair.”
St. Cloud Cathedral players scale the boards and glass in front of their student section after beating Hermantown. Photo by Loren Nelson
Senior defenseman Austin Swingle was the overtime hero for St. Cloud Cathedral, scoring 3 minutes, 54 secons into the extra period as the Crusaders beat Section 5A nemesis Hermantown 5-4 on Friday, Jan. 11 at the Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud.
Swingle, who has rotated between forward and defense for the past several seasons, dug the puck out of the boards and found an opening inside the post as he stuffed the puck past Hermantown goaltender Jace Thomas.
Swingle's goal sparked a wild celebration that included a dogpile of Cathedral players near the blue line. After that mass of jubilation cleared, the Crusaders continued the postgame party by storming the boards and glass in front of their student section.
William Hammer scored three goals and added an assist for St. Cloud Cathedral, benefitting from the extra attention Hermantown paid to North Dakota recruit Austin Poganski.
Hermantown’s Chris Benson added drama to a tightly contested game, tying the game for the Hawks with 1:13 left in the third period.
Hermantown’s Zach Kramer opened the scoring with a nice put-back goal 6 minutes into the game. Hermantown went up 2-0 in the first thanks to a power play goal from Travis Koepke.
St. Cloud Cathedral responded with 3 unanswered goals before Hermantown tied it at 3-3 midway through the second period on a goal by Bo Gronseth.
Hammer had what appeared to be the game winner, scoring 2:22 into the third before Benson tied it late.
Hermantown’s Jace Thomas finished with 25 saves, while Joshua Robak had 40 saves for Cathedral.
1. Will Hammer, St. Cloud Cathedral
The junior forward notched a hat trick, scoring two of his goals back to back late in the first period and early in the second as the Crusaders dug out of 2-0 hole. Hammer scored again 2:22 into the third period to give St. Cloud Cathedral a 4-3 lead. He also notched an assist on Austin Swingle’s overtime goal.
2. Austin Swingle, St. Cloud Cathedral
There was nothing flashy about the senior defenseman’s overtime goal, but it sure looked good to the Crusaders and their fans. Swingle used his ample supple of grit and tenacity to dig the puck out of the corner and slam it into the net.
3. Chris Benson, Hermantown
The senior forward finished off a scrum in front of the St. Cloud Cathedral net by scoring with 1:13 left in the third period, setting up the overtime period. Benson and linemates Travis Koepke and Bo Gronseth accounted for three of the Hawks four goals.