WATERVILLE — Five years ago, on a warm and colorful May day, Blaise MacDonald drove to the Colby College campus for a job interview, saw Johnson Pond sparkling in the spring sunlight and a thought come to mind.

“I looked at this pond and thought, ‘Oh my God, in the winter this would be an idyllic place to have a pond hockey thing for your team,’ ” MacDonald said. “Having coached for a long, long time, I’ve done it a couple of times and always wanted to do it again, but this setting here is just beyond beautiful.”

On Monday afternoon, MacDonald (who aced that job interview in the spring 2012, by the way) finally got to see his vision play out. The nationally-ranked Colby men’s hockey team, unbeaten over its last five games, was on Johnson Pond. Foregoing the rigors of a typical January practice, the Mules divided into seven four-player teams for a four-on-four pond hockey tournament.

The roughly 75-minute session was filled with many of the sounds of a typical hockey rink: skates scraping along ice, sticks rattling against pucks and teammates chirping and hollering at one another with varying degrees of intensity. And without boards and steel walls to contain the enthusiasm, those joyful noises echoed all across the Colby campus.

“By the time you get to the end of the year, everybody starts getting tired and getting a little burnt out from the year,” said Colby senior captain Geoff Sullivan. “It’s good to get out here and have a little fun. It reminds you of playing hockey on the ponds, growing up around the ponds, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Fellow senior E.J. Rauseo had the same feeling.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s good to get the guys out here, and we’re all just enjoying playing the game.”

Colby, ranked 14th in this week’s NCAA Division III national poll, leads the New England Small College Athletic Conference standings with 15 points (6-3-3). Including the first weekend sweeps of Williams and Middlebury and rival Bowdoin College, it’s by far the best start to a season for the Mules under MacDonald.

Colby is 7-4-4 through its first 15 games of the season. Nine remain before the NESCAC playoffs begin at the end of February.

“It’s a long season. These kids are going through exams and then we’re playing a lot of hockey games in January and now we’re coming toward the end,” said MacDonald, who held one outdoor practice when he was head coach at UMass-Lowell in the early 2000s and another a few years prior while at Niagara University. “Stress can get a little bit high if you let it. It’s great to kind of get back to your roots and remember that this is a game we enjoy… just remember what it was like when you were a kid. We all should step back and take advantage of those opportunities when they’re available.”

Certainly the members of Colby’s hockey team felt like kids on the ice Monday. MacDonald — a defenseman on NCAA Division II national championship-winning teams at RIT in 1983 and 1985 — hopped onto a team that included his son, junior Cam MacDonald, while other players would practically fall over one another trying to fill any vacancies on teams. Each of the team’s three goalies were skating on teams, including freshman Andrew Tucci and junior transfer Sean Lawrence, who were on opposite teams in the championship game.

Two games were played on either side of the pond simultaneously, using half-size goals without goaltenders, checking or referees. Passing, skating and puck possession were the names of the game.

Senior forward Scott Fenwick, part of the championship-winning foursome, was like many of the present-day Mules in that he’d never skated on Johnson Pond before.

“We’re usually in the rink, right?” he said. “Five or six days a week. To get out here on the pond, and for a lot of guys to get their first chance to be out here and play some simple, fun hockey, it’s huge for the morale.

“There was a lot of energy. We’ll go back to practice tomorrow and everyone will be feeling nice and light, and feeling good. I think that’s going to be big coming down the stretch.”

It’s not just as simple as having a pond, January on the calendar and a hockey team that practices just a few hundred feet away. MacDonald and assistant coach Chris Hall tried to plan an outdoor practice last season at this time — but a January thaw with high temperatures in the 50s squashed it.

Then there’s the notion of a team’s mental psyche to consider. For example, one might believe a struggling team would be less likely to break the mold and take a chance with something out of the norm, but MacDonald — who was an assistant coach at UMass in Amherst during a Frozen Fenway appearance at Fenway Park in Boston in 2012 — says it’s just the opposite.

“When you’ve got a team that’s going well, you don’t want to break the routine — and we’re playing well right now,” MacDonald said. “But life is about moments, and this is a moment. As coaches, we want to provide memories for a lifetime. That’s what we talk about all the time, and this is certainly one of them.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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