BIDDEFORD — There’s more than one way to win a playoff hockey game, and Colby College tried them all on for size Saturday night.

First, the Mules emerged from the dressing room as a shell of their former playoff self, holding on for dear life and letting the hottest goaltender in the nation carry the entirety of the workload. Then, Colby embraced a wide-open game, skating toe-to-toe with one of the country’s most prolific scoring offenses. And, finally, armed with a one-goal lead after winning the special teams battle in the second period, the refuse-to-lose Mules expertly managed the final 20 minutes through a carefully crafted and wonderfully executed game plan to see their postseason through to another round.

At times it was far from perfect, and it might not have been ideal, but it was enough for Colby to emerge from Harold Alfond Forum with a 4-2 win over No. 7 University of New England in the first round of the NCAA Division III national tournament.

Sophomore Kienan Scott scored two goals in Colby’s three-goal second period against the Nor’easters, showing off the combination of skill and speed that has been waiting to blossom on Mayflower Hill.

“I do like to play in a faster game,” Scott said Saturday night. “(Alfond Forum) is a great rink for my style of play — it’s pretty big, it’s pretty wide open. I think it worked out for me (Saturday). I was able to skate, I was able to move my feet and I was able to have a little creativity out there. I think I capitalized on the opportunities that did come my way.”

The Mules (16-10-2), who will face No. 3 SUNY Geneseo in the quarterfinals Saturday night in Geneseo, New York, faced deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 in the middle period against UNE. Their ability to open the game up, particularly in transition, paid off.

Not only did Colby score three times in the second period, but it generated 17 shots on net, drew a pair of Nor’easter penalties and found ways to get traffic driving to the net.

“We just were a little jumpy in the first period,” senior goalie Sean Lawrence (33 saves) said of Colby’s change in style in the second period. “We may have given them a little too much respect. We’re a great team, and we maybe didn’t show as much poise as we could have. In the second period, we knew we were better than that. They guys just slowed it down a little bit, and I think we absolutely dominated after that.”

Armed with a 3-2 lead to begin the third, Colby provided a lesson in playing with a lead in crunch time. The Mules were sharp with and without the puck, making sure to exit the defensive zone at every opportunity and get the puck deep into the offensive end, thus forcing the Nor’easters to try and go a full 200 feet of ice every time they had puck possession.

One play which didn’t show up in any statistical categories came from senior center Michael Rudolf.

After the patience paid off for Colby in the form of freshman Joe Schuler’s goal midway through the third period to open up a two-goal lead, Rudolf’s determination characterized that of the entire Mules lineup. There were 24 blocked shots, a lost tooth and bent face mask (courtesy of senior fourth-line Griffin Fadden) and many plays all over the ice illustrating Colby’s commitment to team over individuals.

With under five minutes remaining in regulation, Rudolf chased UNE’s Andrew Slotnick as the Nor’easters moved the puck up the ice. The 6-foot, 190-pound Rudolf caught Slotnick from behind, ran him all the way to the wall along the Colby bench and muscled the puck off Slotnick’s stick to regain possession.

There was no goal on the play, no assisted registered for the Mules captain, but the play’s importance was clear.

“I thought going into the game, and I talked about it, about how to manage the game was really a big deal,” Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said. “The bigger a game, the easier it is to do that. Through that chaos, find simplicity — I thought our guys really did a good job. We started getting down low. Kienan was down low (in the defensive zone) at one point, battling a winger, winning the puck and getting it out. The guys did a really good job managing the game.”

Colby might have the fewest wins this season of any team to make the 12-team national tournament, but a team’s ability to live up to the moment — whether that moment means playing from behind, playing with the lead or playing simply to live another day — can’t be measured by what shows up on the scoreboard.

Entering the national quarterfinals, the Mules are unbeaten over their last eight games (6-0-2) and 9-2-2 over their last 13 games.

“It’s been awesome since we started the playoffs,” Scott said. “We’ve had everyone buy in to having everyone play really tight defensively. We were blocking shots, eating pucks in front of the net. We’ve had a really good, full team defensive effort. Obviously, the results speak for themselves.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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