M. hockey misses the playoffs
Despite a season that certainly hasn’t gone as planned, the Colby men’s hockey team entered the last weekend of competition still in the running for the last playoff spot in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament. Their final two contests of the season were on the road against Connecticut College on Friday, Feb. 17 and Tufts University on Saturday, Feb. 18.
On Friday, the visiting Mules took an early lead on a power-play goal from Cory McGrath ’13, assisted by co-captains Dan Nelson ’12 and Mike Doherty ’12. But the Camels, who were also fighting for the final spot in the tournament, fought back. They scored 2:58 into the second stanza to even the score at one, then scored again at 14:20 to take a 2-1 lead going into the third period.
Colby didn’t panic in the final frame, and although the Camels dominated the play and had five power-play opportunities, they were held scoreless by stout defense and the spectacular play of net-minder Matt Delaney ’13 who turned aside 10 Conn. College shots in the third to keep the Mules alive in the game and the season. The tough defense paid off for Colby with 13:50 remaining when Nils Martin ’15 broke free and skated down the right side and put in the biggest goal of his Colby career to date to tie it up. Nate Morgan ’15 and Nick Trepp ’14 both assisted on the transition goal, Martin’s fourth of the season.
Then, with 4:04 remaining in regulation, and possibly Colby’s season, Ol’ Reliable Doherty showed up again. He delivered his 12th goal of the season off of assists from Morgan and Ben Chwick ’14 to put the Mules ahead for good. The Camels pulled their goalie with 50 seconds remaining, but Delaney and the Colby defense were too much to overcome, and Colby escaped with its playoff chances still intact.
On Saturday, the Jumbos scored first, less than five minutes in to stake a 1-0 lead. Colby and Tufts played scoreless hockey from then until another tally by the Jumbos at 5:12 of the second period. The Tufts goalie made 26 saves through two periods to keep the Mules scoreless. Once again, Colby would need a heroic third period to save its season. Early signs were positive, as Nick Lanza ’14 jumped out of the penalty box and into a breakaway that put the Mules on the board at 1:19, 2-1. Unfortunately, the Jumbos managed to net another score at 5:34 to put them back up by two, 3-1. Delaney was pulled for an extra skater with 44 seconds left as Colby tried to pull off a miracle, and Jack Bartlett ’14 answered the call with a tally off of an assist from Trepp just 14 seconds later to bring the Mules within one with thirty seconds remaining. That would be the last goal, however, as Colby was unable to net a tying goal in the final 30 seconds and had to take a loss that eliminated them from playoff contention, which would have been contingent on losses by Conn. College and Hamilton College in their final games of the season anyway. Colby was swept by Tufts on the season series despite outshooting the Jumbos 80-54 in two games, due to their senior goalie’s 77 saves.
The Mules should feel confident going into next year, despite the loss of talented seniors, because of the potential shown this season by the first-years and the experience Delaney gained in net. The coach, system and players will be more cohesive in their second year together.
Colby finished this season strong, going 4-2-1 in its final seven games after a seven-game losing streak mid-year that ultimately sank the season into a hole that the Mules just couldn’t dig their way out of. The team will look to work hard in the offseason and will make sure that next season resembles their final seven games rather than the previous seven.