HARTFORD — The Colby College men’s hockey team picked the right time of year to get hot.

The sixth-seeded Mules continued their impressive late-season surge with a 4-1 victory over top-seed and sixth-ranked Trinity College in the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship game Sunday afternoon at the Williams Rink.

Colby (15-10-2) won its first conference title in program history and received an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. The 12-team field will be announced Monday at 10:30 a.m. at www.NCAA.com.

Trinity dropped to 19-6-2 but will likely secure an at-large bid to the tournament.

“It feels incredible, but I’m not sure I could have predicted this,” said Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald, who earned career coaching win Nos. 300 and 301 over the weekend. “The biggest thing was the way this group came together as a team — skill, emotion, camaraderie. It’s something I’ve never seen as a coach, and I’ve been doing this for a long time.

“It just goes to show that things like brotherhood and connectivity are able to overcome a lot.”

Colby won its fourth straight game and ran its unbeaten streak to seven (5-0-2) with the NESCAC title win. It defeated Amherst in the quarterfinals before knocking off Wesleyan in the semifinals Saturday at Trinity.

On Sunday, the Mules grabbed a 2-0 lead and then hung on late for the victory.

Senior Cam MacDonald, son of coach Blaise MacDonald, scored two third-period goals — one an empty-netter — to lead the Mules. He has a team-high 15 goals this season.

His first goal came just 13 seconds after Trinity had cut a two-goal Colby lead in half with more than 15 minutes remaining.

“With the feeling in the building at that time, them playing in their home rink, and they’d just cut the lead in half,” Blaise MacDonald said. “To come back and answer so quickly, it deflated them and really energized our bench.”

Senior goalie Sean Lawrence had 38 saves and has allowed just eight goals in the last seven games. He also stopped a penalty shot attempt midway through the third period with the Mules holding a 3-1 lead.

“The shots were a little deceiving,” Lawrence said. “Most of them were from the outside, and the guys did an unbelievable job of making it easy for me.”

Colby skaters blocked a total of 24 shots in the victory.

“It came down to everyone buying in,” Lawrence said. “We were really tested as a team, how much we wanted to win, and how much we all cared for each of us. The guys really bought into that.”

After a scoreless opening period, the Mules scored twice in the opening seven minutes of the second period.

Zack Hale and Spencer Hewson had the goals to give Colby a 2-0 lead it would not relinquish.

The Bantams, the defending NESCAC champs, pulled within one when Michael Grande scored early in the third period.

But Cam MacDonald put the game out of the reach with his goals.

“It was such an incredible feeling,” Colby senior and all-conference defenseman Michael Decker said via a news release. “From where our class started to now being NESCAC champs is surreal. With all the support we’ve had around campus, from our hockey alums, and the Waterville community, we’re so happy to bring our first title back to Colby and Waterville.”

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