WATERVILLE — Looking for a win of any kind in the month of January, the Colby College hockey team was happy to take one of the moral variety.

A miraculous late comeback bid fell short against 10th-ranked Trinity College, leaving the final result a 2-1 Colby loss in a rematch of last season’s New England Small College Athletic Conference championship game Friday night at Alfond Rink. The Mules got a power-play goal from freshman Logan Clarke with 67 seconds remaining to make things interesting, but the end result was still the team’s third straight loss to open the New Year.

Colby fell to 5-5-2 overall (2-5-1 NESCAC) and harkened back to last season’s miserable January when the team lost six of its first seven games in the month, but — as is a constant refrain amongst the Mules — the team was more focused on the intangibles than the tangible sting of defeat as it prepared to host league-leading Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon.

“We always talk about how it’s the process and not the outcomes,” said Colby junior goalie Andrew Tucci, who made 30 saves in the loss, half of those in the first period alone. “Obviously, we know that’s how it is. It’s depressing not getting the win, right? But you’ve got to look at the bright points and move on from it. You can’t change anything now, so it’s on to Wesleyan.”

A perennial powerhouse in the NESCAC, with four league championships to its credit, Trinity created problems all night in all three zones with a blend of size and speed the Mules simply weren’t able to match.

The Bantams kept the puck pinned in the Colby zone for long stretches, particularly in the first and third periods, outshot their hosts in every period, and made it increasingly difficult for the Mules to ever set up shop in the offensive zone.

“It’s not that guys weren’t working hard, it’s just that the puck wasn’t going a lot of guys’ ways tonight,” Colby sophomore Justin Grillo said. “Against a skilled team like that, you need all five guys on the ice working together. We had spurts where we played well, but we also had spurts where one or two guys weren’t having a good shift — and you can tell where that makes a difference against a high-caliber team like that.”

For a Bantams’ team checking in with 11 players in the lineup measuring 6-feet, 190 pounds or more, it wasn’t a surprise.

“If they’re not one of the best teams in the country, I don’t know who is,” Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald said. “They’re a fabulous, fabulous team. When you play against a team like that you can’t have any passengers on our side, you’ve got to make some plays, you’ve got to get a little bit of puck luck.”

Trinity (8-3-2, 4-2-1 NESCAC) took an early lead when Andy Chugg opened the scoring at the 7:14 mark of the first period, and the Bantams rode that 1-0 lead all the way to the infancy stages of the final frame. Adam Anderson doubled the Trinity lead only 3:17 after the intermission.

“They forechecked really well,” Tucci said. “I thought we got better with it as the game went along. In the first period it was a little bit choppy, but I think we started figuring it out at the end. Hopefully, we get better tomorrow.”

“I thought we executed a pretty simple game plan. It’s always really tough to play in this building,” Trinity head coach Matt Greason said. “I thought we played a sound game for 60 minutes, which is what we needed to do. We’ve seen what happens when you don’t, which is you walk out of here pretty disappointed.”

Faced with the proposition of being shutout for the first time this season, Colby got a power play with 1:23 remaining and pulled Tucci in favor of an extra attacker. It took only 16 seconds for Clarke to swat home the rebound of a Thomas Stahlhuth shot for his second goal of the season to make the final minute interesting.

The equalizing goal never came, but the Mules chose to look at the small positives, namely a perfect 3 for 3 night on the penalty kill, 12 blocked shots and a 1 for 2 effort with the man advantage. For a group with six freshmen in the lineup still trying to forge an identity, the loss to Trinity still marked a small step in the right direction.

“I was really pleased with the courage we showed,” MacDonald said. “We blocked a lot of shots. In our last three losses, we’ve played a full 60 minutes. These games are going to help us down the road.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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