Promising season for men’s hockey meets bitter end

In a game that can only be described as a nail-biter for the more than 1,000 fans in attendance, the Colby men’s hockey team fell to Wesleyan University 5-4. Both teams played very well, but unfortunately Colby was unable to come away with the win, bringing an end to their spectacular season.

The Mules had played Wesleyan in conference play twice this year, tying the first game (4-4) and more recently winning (3-2). Prior to Saturday, Coach Blaise MacDonald offered his thoughts on the upcoming game. He highlighted that the Mules needed to “continue to do what we have [done] all year” and to “[always be] on the defensive side of battles.” Coach MacDonald believed that Colby needed a strong focus on defensive due to the fact that “[Wesleyan] is a very good offensive team… [and] are very creative with the puck.”

Right out of the gate it appeared as though Colby had the upper hand against the Cardinals as the Mules were the dominant team both on offense and in terms of physicality. It was immediately clear that the game was going to be a physical one. Both teams were taking the extra stride to finish their hits. However, just three minutes into the game Wesleyan got a shot off that was tipped into the upper corner of the net, giving Wesleyan the first lead. Despite being down early, the Mules did not let up. Five minutes after Wesleyan’s goal, the Mules got their first and only power-play of the game. Though no goals came from this, Colby continued to fire shots on the Wesleyan goaltender. Shortly after, the Mules got a penalty and were sent on the defensive for the first time. Wesleyan set up a strong power-play, but all opportunities were shut down by Colby goaltender Sean Lawrence ’18. Coach MacDonald had mentioned prior to the game that “our penalty kill can help create some defensive momentum.” This became evident when the Mules scored a goal shortly following the penalty with Kienan Scott ’20 redirecting a shot from Nick O’Connor ’19 at the right point. An elated Mules team used this momentum to score another goal just over a minute later. With 1:06 left in the first, Thomas Stahlhuth ’19 passed to JP Schuhlen ’20 who buried the puck in the back of the net to put the men’s team up 2-1.

The second period was very back and forth, with Wesleyan tying the game five minutes in. This created a slight shift in tone as Wesleyan started to take command offensively. The Mules stayed strong and six minutes after Wesleyan scored, Geoff Sullivan ’17 answered back with a goal to put the Mules back up 3-2. However, the Cardinals responded with another goal of their own, making the game 3-3. With less than a minute left in the period, a long shot and good stick positioning allowed for Wesleyan to go up on Colby 4-3.

Being scored on in the final minute of a period can often demoralize a team, but not Colby. The third period started with a key faceoff win for the Mules which led to a strong offensive possession. Less than a minute into the period, senior defenseman Jack Burton ’17 ripped a shot from the point that was redirected into the net by Michael Rudolph  ’18 to tie the game 4-4. After this, it seemed that Colby was going to take use of this momentum and shut Wesleyan down. Unfortunately, just 12 seconds after Colby’s goal, Wesleyan was able to trickle the puck past Lawrence and retake the lead, 5-4. While no more goals were scored after the first minute of play, the game retained a very high intensity level with Colby reaching for the equalizing goal and Wesleyan fending off the Mules every chance they got. With about a minute and a half left in the game, Colby started a final push to score, using six skaters and leaving the net empty. Wesleyan made several mistakes during this final minute such as sending the puck out of play giving Colby an opportunity to call a timeout and set up a final play. However, the Mules weren’t able to tie the game though the effort displayed was tremendous.

As the team left the ice, they were met with cheers from the crowd chanting “Thank you, seniors.”

It cannot be denied that the men’s hockey team had a very successful season. Over the past three years, the team has increasingly showed significant improvement in their record and become more of a force to be reckoned with within the NESCAC. It was just in 2014-15 season that the men’s team went 2-13-3 in conference play (5-16-3 overall), much different than this year’s second place conference finish with a record of 11-4-3 (13-7-4 overall). Some of the notable games from this season include the 2-game series against Bowdoin in which Colby swept them 2-1 and 5-4. Another key game came early in February as the Mules beat Hamilton, who won the conference, 1-0. Some notable performances from this season: Phil Klitirinos ’18 who led the team in points with seven goals and 18 assists totaling 25 points. Rudolph led the team in goals with his total of ten. For goaltending, both Andrew Tucci ’20 and Lawrence posted impressive .916 and .915 save percentages respectively. Overall, the team was able connect as a single unit to create memorable moments for both the program and school. Scott reflected on the season and attributed a lot of the success to the seniors: “I just want to thank all the seniors for everything they’ve done, building this program for four years and leading us to our best season in a long time.” Scott also remained confident in the team’s ability, stating that “[they] are going to do everything in our power to build off of [this past season] and hopefully win a championship.” This hockey team is a young team filled with talented players and will no doubt be something special to watch in the coming years.

Leave a Reply