WATERVILLE — Bowdoin is ahead of Colby in men’s hockey when both teams are at full strength. Take a Colby team riddled with injuries — the Mules will dress 17 instead of the maximum 18 players in their next game — and it looked like something of a mismatch.

For the first 10 or 15 minutes, it was, as Bowdoin nearly ran the Mules out of Alfond Rink. Colby didn’t pack it in, and you could even argue the Mules outplayed Bowdoin the rest of the way, but Bowdoin still came away with a 3-1 victory on Friday night.

“After that first 10 or 15 minutes, we outshot them 33 to 20,” Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said. “We did a pretty good job of pushing back. They’re an awfully good team. They’ve got a lot of speed. They put a lot of pressure on you. We’ve got a young team. I thought we really had created enough opportunities to have won the game, and we’ll learn from those missed opportunities.

Bowdoin clinched the win when senior forward Harry Matheson scored on a high shot from the left side with 5:32 to play in the third period. The referee’s call of a goal was delayed, but was upheld after the officials huddled for about 30 seconds. As MacDonald talked to a referee, the fans threw garbage on the ice, prompting the public address announcer to warn that any more objects on the ice would result in a bench minor against Colby.

“He thought it went in,” MacDonald said. “I think he was the only guy in the building that did.

“That call had no bearing on the game. We didn’t score another one, so it’s 2-1. It doesn’t matter. Those are tough calls for refs.”

In a pregame ceremony, Colby unveiled a banner in tribute to Todd McGovern, who played for the Mules from 1993 to 1997. McGovern died of cancer at age 38 on January 28, 2013.

As part of the ceremony, MacDonald announced that the Mules will give the Todd McGovern Teammate Award to “the best, most inspirational teammate,” beginning this season.

For a while, that looked like it would be Colby’s only highlight of the evening. Bowdoin took a 1-0 lead just 43 seconds into the game, as Colin Downey came down the right side and fed Ollie Koo for the goal. After seven minutes, it was still 1-0, and the Polar Bears had a 10-1 edge in shots on goal.

Colby finally got off a shot, and got another break when Matheson hit the post from close range. But with 5:50 to go in the period — and just 10 seconds into a power play — Jay Livermore scored to up Bowdoin’s lead to 2-0.

Colby goalie Sam Parker ended the period by making nice saves to rob Kendall Culbertson and Connor Quinn, and the Mules continued that momentum into the second period. Colby got on the board when the Mules crashed the net and freshman Geoff Sullivan notched his first career goal with 15:02 left. Colby had another great chance late in the period, but Bowdoin goalie Max Fenkell made a desperate dive to tip away a centering pass from Tyler Ringel to EJ Rauseo.

Colby went on the power play less than two minutes into the third period, and barely 30 seconds after that penalty was killed off, Fenkell had to make a sliding save to deny Scott Fenwick of the tying goal.

That was kind of the story of the game for Colby: Very close, but not quite there. The Mules are now 1-2-1, and will face Bowdoin tonight at 7. The Polar Bears are 1-1-1, and while coach Terry Meagher can capture his 500th career victory win a win, Colby will be playing its fifth game in eight days.

“I like where we’re at; we’re building,” MacDonald said. “Our guys’ compete level is getting better. Our understanding of our structure and system is getting better. We’ve just kind of been decimated with injuries. I’ve got three or four defensemen that are out, two or three forwards that are out. We’re really up against it.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243[email protected]Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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