WATERVILLE — Two games into the NCAA Division III tournament and Colby College center Nick O’Connor’s name has hardly been mentioned. For the junior from Canton, Massachusetts, that’s exactly how he prefers it.

“I like it that way, to be honest. I don’t like much attention,” O’Connor said. “I’m kind of an under the radar type of guy. I like doing the little things that earn you the respect that you want as a player.”

O’Connor, though, is not overlooked when it comes to on-ice contributions for the Mules, who are headed to the program’s first Frozen Four appearance this week in Lake Placid, New York. Fourth on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 24 points, O’Connor’s input comes in myriad other forms.

He’s Colby’s go-to man on defensive zone faceoffs, one of its best penalty killers and capable of handling either checking duties or offensive production.

Think of O’Connor as Colby’s version of the Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron. He’s never going to wow you with a stat line that jumps off the page, but his presence is noticeable.

“He’s the ultimate guy that flies under the radar,” Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald said. “At the end of the day, he’s the glue that holds his line and our team together.”

Impacting so many different areas of the game through all three zones, it’s a wonder the 5-10, 183-pounder isn’t playing hockey at the Division I level. It’s a feeling MacDonald has expressed in the past.

“Once again, I was an under the radar type of guy,” O’Connor said of the lack of Division I interest when he came out of prep school. “I just wanted to come to a good school, and the NESCAC was definitely a priority of mine.

“There’s an end goal, and that’s a national championship. Now, we’ve got to put the foot on the gas pedal and keep chugging.”

• • •

Freshman Spencer Hewson has ridden the typical ups and downs of a rookie season in college hockey, but the 22-year-old from British Columbia had enough prior hockey experience to find his way out of a midseason slump.

To nobody’s surprise, Hewson is third on the team with 15 assists, one of only two freshmen with more than five points this season.

“Spencer’s a bit older than other guys, and he played (208) games in the BCHL, so he’s a veteran presence,” linemate Phil Klitirinos said of his centerman. “He’s been around key situations enough. I think he’s shown in his freshman year that he’s going to have a great career here at Colby.”

Hewson was a healthy scratch for consecutive mid-January games against Wesleyan and the University of New England. He returned to the lineup and hasn’t missed a game since, playing his best hockey at the time when Colby has been rolling.

“If anyone enjoys getting a healthy scratch, they’re not competitive,” Hewson said. “I took that as a little bit of fuel to the fire and realized that things needed to tighten up.”

One of the areas Hewson said he wanted to work on most was faceoffs. The extra focus paid off, as Hewson has joined O’Connor as the Mules most trusted men in the dot during key situations late in playoff games — especially in the defensive zone.

“He came back and took his game to a much different level,” MacDonald said. “His poise, his game savviness, it’s really helped his line with Phil and Mario (Benicky). More often than not, that’s been our best line, and Spencer has been one of the key hubs to making it work.”

• • •

Sophomore defenseman Mark Leprine’s season got off to the worst imaginable start. Not only did he suffer a concussion during the offseason, but he also battled mononucleosis while trying to find his way through significant post-concussion syndrome.

Coming off a promising rookie campaign, Leprine didn’t find his first game action until Jan. 5 this season. He played in the next three Colby games, but found himself back watching from the stands for six of the team’s next seven.

“I was trying, but I just wasn’t where I needed to be,” Leprine said. “I sat out a couple more games and watched and got my legs back under me.”

Coincidentally or not, Leprine has played in all nine games during the team’s 7-0-2 run that included the NESCAC championship and two NCAA tournament game wins.

Leprine has paired mostly with senior Dan Dupont since returning to a regular shift.

“It’s been a complete 180. I went from not being able to leave my bed to going out and playing every day now,” Leprine said. “It’s just been great. The guys have helped out a lot. It was tough transitioning at first, but now I’m finally feeling like I’m back into it.”

• • •

While Colby is making its first trip to the Frozen Four in Lake Placid this week, for one Mule it’s not a first appearance in the Frozen Four or at Herb Brooks Arena.

Senior goalie Sean Lawrence was a backup for Quinnipiac in the Division I Frozen Four in 2016. The Bobcats lost to North Dakota in the national championship.

While also at Quinnipiac, Lawrence made two trips to Lake Placid for the ECAC Final Four. During his freshman season, he saw five minutes of action in a semifinal against Harvard.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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