Colby College’s J.P. Schuhlen celebrates after the Mules scored their first goal against St. Norbert College during the NCAA Division III national semifinals last March in Lake Placid, New York.

WATERVILLE — To say Kienan Scott had a quiet first half of the season would be like saying the Grand Canyon is a pretty big hole.

After leading the Colby College hockey team in scoring last season, the junior from Spokane, Washington had just three assists through his first 14 games this winter. Instead of building on a breakout sophomore campaign in which the Mule tied for second on the team in both goals (11) and assists (16) a year ago, Scott appeared burdened with the new expectations.

“Maybe it’s part of now that I’m an upperclassmen, there’s a little more pressure on my shoulders,” said Scott, who averaged nearly 0.70 points per game (17-20-37 totals) through his first two seasons on Mayflower Hill. “That might have gotten to me, especially with a young team. Maybe that got to me a bit. Now that I’ve gotten a couple last weekend, hopefully it keeps going.”

Last weekend, Scott scored his first two goals of the season, both of them in a key New England Small College Athletic Conference win at Middlebury. Scott opened the game with a first-period power-play goal before breaking a 3-3 tie with the game-winner midway through the third.

On an inexperienced team desperate for secondary scoring, Scott finally emerged as a primary threat behind the top trio of Nick O’Connor, Justin Grillo and Logan Clarke which has been consistently dangerous from start to finish for Colby. The timing couldn’t be better for the Mules, who face rival Bowdoin on Saturday night desperate to put a disappointing January behind them and begin climbing back into contention in league play over the final four weekends of the regular season.

“If you remember last season, in January we were really bad,” Scott said. “I think last weekend the big win over Middlebury and even the loss at Williams, the way we came back in the third period, it reminded me a lot of where we were exactly at this point last season. We started picking it up in the last few weeks, right into the playoffs.”

Colby coach Blaise MacDonald tried many things to jumpstart Scott this season. He’s been used on three different lines, in different locations on the power play and even served as a healthy scratch in a non-conference game against Saint Anselm.

Ultimately, MacDonald believes, it was off-ice video work that finally yielded production for Scott.

“We had a little different approach during the week, in terms of revisiting what productivity looks like,” MacDonald said. “It more was the process was altered a little bit, and I think it helped heighten his senses for what it feels like to score goals and be a productive player.”

Scott’s linemate and classmate, J.P. Schuhlen, noticed something different about Scott over the last couple of weekends.

“I think the thing you really saw was his confidence, even in practice,” Schuhlen said. “He’s shooting the puck more, he’s making the simpler plays. It looks like he’s kind of easing into it now, realizing the goals are going to come and getting back to the way he’s supposed to play.”

Schuhlen, too, entered the season with high expectations for himself. The Longmeadow, Massachusetts native has four goals and seven points — fifth on the team — while making the transition from young role player to key performer.

After a 2-1 loss to Trinity College on Jan. 11, Schuhlen took a long look in the mirror and wondered what needed to change for a team that went 1-5-1 through its first seven games this month.

“A couple of guys I know on that (Trinity) team said we were a one-line team. I kind of took that personally,” Schuhlen said. “I think you start to play mind games with yourself. (Kienan and I) looked at each other on Jan. 1 and said, ‘2019 is going to be a good year for Schuhlen and Scott.’ We’ve gotten a couple to go in, and hopefully we can get a couple more to go in, too.”

Though Colby has dropped into a tie with Bowdoin for seventh place in the league, MacDonald still thinks his young roster is on track with the expectations he had entering the season. Nine seniors graduated from last March’s NCAA Division III Frozen Four participant, leaving former underclassmen like Scott and Schuhlen having to embrace new responsibilities.

“It’s right on par,” MacDonald said. “I’ve been extremely, extremely proud of our process. The last three weekends, we’ve played really, really well.

“We know on some of those other lines (behind O’Connor’s line) we’ve got players who have been productive in the past and who have talent and ability,” MacDonald said. “If they could catch fire at the right time, that could be a huge boost to our confidence moving forward.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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