With a win over Suffolk and a tie with UMass-Dartmouth this weekend, the Colby men’s hockey team is 3-2-2. It’s a small but important step forward for a team that has struggled the last two seasons.

“We’re playing at a much higher level than we played last year,” Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said. “I think we’re a better transition team from offense to defense and defense to offense. I think we have more quality depth than we had last year. I just think we’re playing our system — not as good as we need to, but definitely better.”

Colby was 1-6-0 after seven games last season, and was 3-13-1 at one point before rallying to finish 7-15-3.

The Mules are still hampered by injuries, and MacDonald says there are four or five would-be regulars who are currently on the sidelines. Colby played most of the game against Suffolk with 17 skaters, one under the maximum of 18.

“We suited up 18, but one of them got hurt (on his) first shift,” MacDonald said.

Senior defenseman Brendan Cosgrove is having a breakout season for Colby. Coming into this year, Cosgrove had 13 points in 57 career games. So far this season, Cosgrove has one goal and eight assists for nine points in seven games.

Nick Lanza and Ben Chwick each have four goals and four assists, while Ray Zeek and Tyler Lingel have each scored three goals. Freshman Jack Burton returned from an injury this weekend for his first action of the season, and scored two goals in the victory over Suffolk.

MacDonald said he is hopeful nearly all of Colby’s injured players will return for the second semester, which would be a big boost in practices and games.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.

The Mules have two New England Small College Athletic Conference games at home this weekend. Colby hosts Tufts at 7 Friday night, and Connecticut College at 3 p.m. Saturday. MacDonald is hoping for good-sized crowds to add to Colby’s home-ice advantage.

“They’re huge games for us,” MacDonald said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good place in our league. They’re two very physical teams. It’s going to be two really hotly contested games.”

• • •

Two women’s basketball players who have transferred to new schools have stepped into starting roles on their new teams. Oak Hill graduate Maggie Sabine, formerly of Central Maine Community College, has started all six games at St. Michael’s, and is averaging 23.3 minutes per game. Sabine is taking only nine field goal attempts per 40 minutes, which has kept her scoring average down to 4.0 points per game. She is averaging 6.2 rebounds per game, which is third-best on the team.

Messalonskee graduate Megan Pelletier played at Thomas College as a freshman last winter, and is now playing at the University of Southern Maine. The Huskies were ranked No. 21 in Division III before losing to the University of New England and Keene St. by four points apiece.

USM was 4-2 heading into Tuesday night’s game with Bowdoin. Pelletier has started five of those games, and is averaging 9.2 points per game. In Sunday’s 60-49 win over St. Joseph’s, Pelletier had a game-high 14 points in 26 minutes.

• • •

The Colby women’s basketball team is 3-3. Beginning tonight at home against Bates, the Mules will play three games in four days. It’s the second time this season Colby will have played three times in four nights. The Mules went 1-2 in the previous stretch

All three games are against tough opponents. Bates is 4-3 and defeated Husson by 30 points. St. Joseph’s is 4-2 and is coming off an 11-point loss to Southern Maine. Bowdoin is 5-0, including a 36-point win over Bates.

Colby’s top two rebounders this season are guards Gabe Donahue (5 foot-6) and Desi Smith (5-10). The Mules start three local players, and all three are among Colby’s top four scorers. Hall-Dale grad Carylanne Wolfington is averaging a team-high 13.7 ppg, Waterville’s Jen Nale is at 10.5, and Cony’s Mia Diplock is averaging 8.3 ppg.

The one area Colby could use some improvement is shooting. Wolfington (.485) is the only player shooting over 36 percent, and the Mules are shooting 33 percent as a team, which ranks them 365th among 426 Division III teams. That’s partly because the Mules take a lot of 3-pointers (22 per game), but they’re shooting 36 percent on 2-pointers and 28 percent on threes.

There are some excellent shooters on the team, as evidenced by Colby’s free-throw percentage. The Mules are shooting 77 percent from the line as a team, which ranks them 22nd in the country. Smith is shooting .939 from the line (31 for 33), which is second-best in the nation for players who have made at least 25 free throws.

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

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