WATERVILLE — For all of the modern metrics introduced to hockey over the last decade, the game can still boil down to those things that simply can’t be measured.

Sophomore Luke Babcock scored his second goal of the game a minute into the third period, just 12 seconds after Wesleyan University had allowed a tying goal, and the Cardinals rode that strike to a 5-4 win over No. 13 Colby College in the New England Small College Athletic Conference quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Alfond Rink. For the second-seeded Mules (13-7-4), the loss likely dashed any hopes they had of making the NCAA Division III tournament next month after wrapping up the regular season on a seven-game stretch without a regulation defeat.

“Maybe it was a little bit of puck luck, too,” Wesleyan coach Chris Potter said of his team’s ability to transition into odd-man rushes, particularly in a wild second period that produced three Cardinal goals, and create a net-front presence. “That was a wild one. That could have gone either way.”

To wit: Colby held advantages in shots attempted (66-42), faceoffs won (33-21) and in attacking zone time — all key factors in CORSI statistics, which attempt to measure teams’ performances beyond traditional numbers like shots on goal and goals against averages. And yet, for all of those advantages the Mules enjoyed, the Cardinals did the old-school things that mattered most in the end.

After dropping into an early 1-0 deficit, Colby struck late in the first period to take the lead headed into the intermission, twice finding the back of the net in the final 2:12. Kienan Scott and J.P. Schuhlen, a pair of freshmen, were able to beat Dawson Sprigings (24 saves) just 1:06 apart.

That set the stage for the middle stanza, in which the two teams combined for more shot attempts in the first 10 minutes than they had in the entire opening 20 minutes, producing one wide-open, end-to-end odd-numbered rush after another.

Cardinal junior winger Dylan Holze seemed to enjoy the open flow more than most, scoring twice and assisting on a third goal in the frame. He tied the game at 2-2 at the 5:22 mark, finishing off a 2-on-1 centering pass from Vincent Lima.

Colby responded on a beautiful strike from senior defenseman Geoff Sullivan, spotted from behind the net by Phil Klitirinos creeping in from the right point, who sniped a wrister top shelf at 11:03.

“I thought we had some good chances after that. We just needed to extend the lead there, and we didn’t,” Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said. “Our margin for scoring goals is low to begin with, and we just didn’t capitalize on all the chances that were there.”

Respond, Wesleyan certainly did. Holze tied things for a third time at 16:52, and with less than a minute to go before the intermission, Tyler Wyatt capitalized when the Mules couldn’t clear the zone on two different occasions with a second-chance rebound in heavy traffic to give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.

“That hasn’t been a strength of ours,” Potter said of hopping into the attack. “It’s about good puck movement, making that first pass, and we did that pretty well tonight.

“The key to scoring goals these days is to getting someone to the net. I thought we did that… and I don’t even think the goalie saw the third one. When we’re scoring, we’re going to the net.”

Perhaps buoyed by a big, raucous home crowd, Colby got the break it apparently needed just 49 seconds into the third, when Michael Rudolf’s shot somehow trickled through Sprigings’ pads and across the goal line to make it a 4-4 game.

But just as soon as that big, raucous crowd turned up the volume in the tiny Alfond Rink, Babcock scored on a similar goal almost immediately. Colby netminder Sean Lawrence, square to Babcock’s shot from the left circle, held his position — only to look back and see the puck somehow finding enough space to make its way through him and into the goal.

Lawerence allowed five goals on just 24 shots, the kind of off night he hadn’t had since allowing seven goals to the University of New England on Jan. 28.

“That’s exactly how it unfolded when we played them earlier. They kept answering to our opportunities,” MacDonald. “I thought we were a little bit offensively challenged… We give up mid-20s in shots and five goals — that’s very uncharacteristic.”

Colby pulled Lawrence in favor of an empty net with 1:30 to go and won a pair of faceoffs inside the final 30 seconds but was unable to force overtime.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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