WATERVILLE — At every level of the game, from the miniest of Mites to the most prominent of professionals, it’s widely accepted that a hot goalie can make or break any playoff run.

Talk to any member of the Colby College men’s hockey team this week and they will tell you that senior goalie Sean Lawrence is a big reason the Mules will compete in the NCAA Division III tournament this weekend for the first time since 1996.

“There’s no way to overstate it,” Colby captain and defenseman Dan Dupont said of Lawrence’s postseason significance. “He’s been incredible. If we did team voting for MVP, he’d probably get every single vote. It’s hard to put into words.”

The Mules will travel to the University of New England in Biddeford on Saturday night for a first-round matchup. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7.

Lawrence —a transfer from Division I Quinnipiac — has been nothing short of sensational this season, ranking third in the nation with a .940 save percentage to complement his 2.06 goals against average.

Colby enters the tournament riding a seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2). Lawrence has been spectacular — allowing just eight goals in all with a pair of shutouts —in the run. Five times in the last seven games Lawrence has allowed a goal or fewer, posting a .969 save percentage and a 1.12 GAA over that stretch.

“When you have a great goalie in net, you play more reckless — more fearless — and you just go out and do your job at that point,” Colby senior defenseman Michael Decker said. “You know he’s got your back behind you, and you can have fun with it. That’s the biggest thing.”

After losing six of seven games to begin January, including a four-game losing streak and a pair of losses to UNE, the Mules needed a spark.

Enter Lawrence to provide it.


Lawrence wasn’t part of Colby’s plans in net more than a year ago. In fact, he wasn’t even on the roster in December 2016.

After playing sparingly at Quinnipiac during the first two years of his collegiate career, the 24-year-old from Granite Bay, California sought change. His junior year at Quinnipiac began much the way his sophomore year had — he didn’t see any game action — and he approached the Bobcats’ coaching staff about transferring.

“I didn’t want to transfer to a Division I school because I didn’t want to have to sit out and redshirt. I’m plenty old enough already,” Lawrence said. “It’s one of the better decisions I’ve made in my life, to be honest with you.”

Although Lawrence was a Division I-caliber goalie heading to Mayflower Hill in Waterville — and the smaller barns and lower profile of the New England Small College Athletic Conference — he faced questions.

Colby started last season on a tear, rolling out to a 5-1-1 start by the time the 6-foot goalie first set foot on campus. Andrew Tucci, a freshman at the time, had proven more than capable of tending the nets for the Mules.

Dupont, who had a heads-up on Lawrence’s impending transfer through a friend playing at Quinnipiac, admitted he wondered how Lawrence would fit.

“At that time, Christmas of last year, Tucci was playing phenomenal,” Dupont said. “When we heard this guy Lawrence was coming in — I guess the best way to say it is that it didn’t shake us from our trust in Tucci. We didn’t even know if Lawrence was going to play.”

“I hadn’t played in quite a while, so fortunately I got to go to a team that was doing really well,” added Lawrence, a two-time NESCAC Player of the Week this season, including last week. “I just tried to do whatever I could to help the team win. Tooch was playing awesome, so if I could complement him, I was willing to do whatever it took.”

The two netminders platooned throughout the second half of the 2016-17 season. Lawrence got the nod for Colby’s only playoff game at the end of the season, and by the time this year began, it became clear that a pecking order had been established.


Lawrence started each and every one of Colby’s 18 NESCAC games this season and appeared in 23 of Colby’s 27 games.

It’s a welcomed workload considering he played in just seven games over his first two college hockey seasons, and just 12 in his junior year.

“It’s my last season of college hockey. I wanted to make it something where every game I came in and battled as hard as I could to do whatever I could to help the team win,” said Lawrence, who led the Boston Jr. Bruins to a USPHL title in 2014, posting a 1.83 GAA and .943 save percentage in the playoffs as the league’s MVP. “Being a senior, there’s definitely a little bit more emphasis on these being your last couple of games.”

Lawrence has also been candid about the process of his development being rapidly accelerated with such a short window in which to work.

Where most players have four years to grow, Lawrence arrived at Colby with less than two full seasons in which to elevate his game. Technically, he’s been excellent since his Mules’ debut — a 2-1 loss at Hamilton on Jan. 6, 2017 — but his mental approach has received plenty of attention.

“I try and break it down into five-minute increments throughout the game,” Lawrence said. “I just try to win each of those five-minute increments. If you’re winning all of those five-minute increments, you’re probably going to end up with you winning the game.

“When I’m not playing great, I think I can let the emotions get the best of me. That’s something I’ve worked on a lot this year, is just trying to keep an even keel throughout the whole game. People are looking at me. If they see me down, it’s not going to help the team. It’s just about staying positive and helping guys out.”

The approach is working. There’s little question that without Lawrence, the Mules wouldn’t be preparing this week for their first NCAA appearance in program history.

“We mirror Sean’s competitive fire,” Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald said. “He brings our game to a different level. I don’t think it can be overstated. When you see teams that get on a run in the playoffs and play with a lot of confidence, it usually starts with a hot goalie.”

“I think he’s the best goalie in the country at the Division III level,” Dupont added.

In the first round of the NCAA tournament against a UNE squad that is among the most potent in the nation, Lawrence will have the opportunity to showcase that — and cement his decision to transfer to Colby as the best choice he ever made.

“Playoff hockey is obviously a lot different than the regular season. Every game is tight,” Lawrence said. “It’s a whole team thing. It’s about guys buying into the system. … It’s about guys doing their role, playing their part and following the system.”

This story was edited to reflect that Colby is making its second NCAA appearance in program history.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC