WATERVILLE — Through six games this season, no Mule has been more consistent than Zack Hale.

The senior from Minneapolis has brought the same character to each and every shift thus far, and Hale made it pay off Tuesday night against Saint Anselm College with only his second career goal midway through the third period, snapping a scoreless tie and hoisting Colby College to a 2-0 non-conference win over the Hawks at Alfond Rink.

The Mules (2-2-2) extended their current unbeaten streak to four straight games with their first home win of the season, backed by the first career shutout from junior goalie Andrew Tucci. Tucci made 33 saves in a victory clinched by senior center Nick O’Connor’s team-leading fourth goal of the season, an empty-netter with under 12 seconds remaining.

“It was awesome,” said Hale, who has six points in 67 career games. “Obviously, I’m not a guy that finds the scoresheet every game, so anytime I can contribute that way I’m obviously excited about it. I’m just happy to help out in a time when the guys needed it.”

Hale began the season on what was essentially Colby’s fourth line, providing the physical presence and energy the inexperienced Mules were lacking. He bumped up to the third line last weekend with the same impact, and on Tuesday — with Kienan Scott scratched in favor of some young faces in the lineup — Hale pounded home his own second-chance to break up a stellar effort from Saint Anselm goalie Colin Soucy (30 saves).

“The defender had his stick on my stick, so I kind of got everything I could on the shot but it was still pretty soft,” Hale said. “Luckily, it hit the goalie right in the chest and kind of bounced right back to the backhand. I swiped at it, and it ended up going in.”

Hale’s goal came just over four minutes after Soucy stonewalled O’Connor on a shorthanded breakaway, Soucy’s second breakaway save of the evening.

“(Hale) works so hard. He’s got great spirit out there,” Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said. “He passes that positive vibe to the rest of the team and certainly his linemates. It was nice to see him rewarded, for sure. I think you’re going to see more goals out of Zack pretty soon.”

At the other end of the rink, Tucci was remarkable in key moments.

Early in the second period, Tucci turned away Matt Chisholm who forced him into action at the right post, and during one of the few stretches where the Hawks (7-6-0) carried the play — notably, down the stretch toward the second intermission — Tucci made successive stops on Jeremy Carignan and Chisholm to keep things scoreless.

“It feels great,” Tucci said of the shutout. “I was thinking this was the day. I felt good out there, and I’m really glad I finally got it. … I think our team is getting a lot more comfortable with each other and we’re finding seams. We’re looking a lot better in our defensive zone.”

Tucci’s most important work of the night came in the final minute, with the Mules clinging to the 1-0 lead.

That’s when Carignan, with Soucy pulled in favor of an extra Saint Anselm skater, bore down the slot unchecked with speed. He tried to tuck a laser inside the left post, but Tucci was there with a blocker save that steered the puck clear to the near corner without leaving a rebound in traffic.

“He certainly gave us a chance, and once we got that first goal we felt pretty good,” MacDonald said.

Tucci’s netminding late was part of a bigger piece for Colby.

After surrendering a late third-period lead against rival Bowdoin on Saturday, the Mules apparently learned from their past. They were composed with the puck and their management of such was impeccable. Every chance they got, the Mules chipped the puck deep into the Hawk zone, kept it along the walls and didn’t allow Saint Anselm any room to exit its own zone.

Colby outshot Saint Anselm 11-7 in the final period, holding the Hawks to only four shots through the first 13 minutes of the frame.

Even when a late icing call with 25.1 seconds on the clock threatened to give the Hawks one last crack at tying things up, O’Connor made sure that never happened. The pivot won the draw cleanly to Thomas Stahlhuth, and Stahlhuth began the transition which finished at the other end with O’Connor’s empty-netter.

“That’s what you want your team to do, just get into lockdown mode,” MacDonald said. “Keep everything north, make sure you’re on the right side of the puck all the time and make sure you’re supporting it. We really didn’t give them a sniff.

“That’s a good sign of a team that’s growing a little bit.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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