WATERVILLE — Saturday night at Alfond Rink began with a reminder.

Eight of the nine seniors from last year’s Colby College hockey team were honored with a presentation of their New England Small College Athletic Conference championship rings. As they embraced along a carpet laid out across center ice, it was hard not to draw a conclusion.

The evening ended with a 3-3 tie between the current Mules and their fierce rivals from Bowdoin College, after Colby failed to hold a one-goal lead over the final five minutes. That left Colby with just one win in its first five games of the season, none of those in NESCAC play.

But as last season’s captains — Dan Dupont and Phil Klitirinos — stood with players who advanced to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four in Lake Placid, New York last March, it was the perfect reminder that things are often darkest before the dawn.

Colby, now 1-2-2 overall after playing its last three games to overtime, played its most complete game of the season. They outshot, out-drew and generally out-paced Bowdoin (2-3-1) and rallied back twice from one-goal deficits through goals from Mike Morrissey and Justin Grillo. Senior captain Nick O’Connor’s third goal of the year handed the Mules a 3-2 lead with under eight minutes remaining, but Cody Todesco’s second goal of the third period pulled Bowdoin even.

It appeared Grillo had pulled out a win with a goal with 3.3 seconds remaining in overtime but that was waved off by the on-ice officials, who ruled the puck had been tied up by Bowdoin goalie Erik Wurman (41 saves).

Though Colby played well enough to win, it is still a young and inexperienced group prone to costly mistakes. And, when you’re a young and inexperienced group, it’s often difficult to overcome even a few mistakes.

“One hundred percent,” Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said when asked if Saturday’s game was the best his team had played this year. “The way I saw the game, (Bowdoin’s) first two goals were some fortunate bounces right to open guys. We didn’t get any of those bounces. We worked hard for our goals.”

“Last year, we had a really deep skill team,” Grillo said. “We’re a new group this year. We’re still trying to identify ourselves, but we can simplify the game … instead of waiting for the game to come to you. It’s not necessarily skill stuff, but just that gritty mentality we need to have.”

Colby may have only the one win in its first five games with St. Anselm College due for a visit to Alfond on Tuesday night, yet it’s worth noting that last season’s Mules lost six of seven games in a miserable January stretch and went 5-8-2 between Jan. 2 and Feb. 16.

All of that happened before those same seniors who were on campus for the Bowdoin game Saturday night — including goalie Sean Lawrence, forwards Mario Benicky and Cam MacDonald and defensemen Michael Decker and Andrew Reis — helped turn things around at the time it mattered most.

“We’re dominated by the process and just aware of the results,” Blaise MacDonald said. “Simply aware.”

The process is showing signs of producing said results. For the first time this year, MacDonald jumbled his lines and defensive pairings significantly, and several players responded.

In the win over the Polar Bears, Kienan Scott and Spencer Hewson each assisted on Morrissey’s goal. It was the first point of the season for Scott — last winter’s leading scorer for the team — and just the second for Hewson.

Grillo, himself expected to have a breakout season for the Mules, played his most complete game. He played well in spells over the first four games of the year, but he was also prone to bouts of invisibility. In addition to his goal and the one he nearly scored in overtime, he was engaged from start to finish against Bowdoin.

“I’ve noticed it in myself, too, that I’ve kind of been waiting for things to come to me,” Grillo said. “Now it’s time. It’s not the same (as last year). It’s not just going to pop on my stick. I’ve got to get my feet moving. I kept that mentality all night — solve problems with your feet and it will come to you.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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