WATERVILLE — The real work begins this weekend for the Colby College women’s ice hockey team.

High expectations in the preseason translated into a season-opening sweep of Williams, the reigning New England Small College Athletic Conference champion, last weekend. And while those two victories to open the campaign were plenty promising, the pressure only intensifies with a two-game set against rival Bowdoin College this weekend. The two teams will meet Friday night at Sawyer Arena in Brunswick before concluding the set with a Saturday matinee at Alfond Rink.

“It’s huge. I think we caused an uproar in the NESCAC with those scores initially, sweeping them the first weekend,” NESCAC player of the week Lexi Cafiero said. “It gave us a huge confidence boost going into this weekend.”

Saturday’s game, the centerpiece of an alumni celebration weekend for the Mules (2-0-0), will be the final Colby-Bowdoin game played at Alfond before Colby moves into its new athletic center next season.

“It’s a huge weekend,” Colby senior captain Tess Dupre said. “It’s extra special this weekend because we’re shutting down the Alfond Center, and this is our celebration of that. It should be a really awesome way to celebrate how far Colby hockey has come.”

Colby couldn’t have dreamt up a better start to the season, posting 2-1 and 4-3 wins over Williams to begin the year. In each game, the Mules trailed before taking the lead in the third period. Dupre scored the game-winner — her second of the day — on Saturday in what has been a steady career for Colby which has now amassed 10 goals. The sophomore Cafiero netted the winner on Friday, a sign that the young talent Colby head coach Holley Tyng has brought into the program in what is now her fourth season there is beginning to blossom.

With the two wins over Williams, it marked the first time Colby took two games in a single season from the Ephs since the 2009-2010 campaign, the Mules having gone 4-11-1 over that stretch. With a boatload of upperclassmen on the team, including 10 juniors, some of that veteran know-how is expected to pay further dividends this winter.

Last year’s 12-10-3 record marked a big step in the right direction, a season that ended with a second consecutive NESCAC playoff appearance. That’s a long way from the 2016-17 team that went 0-15-1 in conference play.

“We wanted to have a strong start. I wanted us to play two good, solid, 60-minute hockey games,” Tyng said. “We scored all of our goals five on five. We unfortunately gave a lot of goals on the PK, so obviously we need to work on our special teams. But systematically, last year a lot of this stuff was still new to the majority of our players. This year we have that extra year of experience, and it’s only new to four of our players. The fact we’re able to build on last year, early on, is huge for us.”

“Our team culture has transformed so much, and one of the goals we made at the beginning of the season was to compete for a NESCAC championship,” Dupre said. “I think we have the talent and culture to do it.”

Waiting to derail any hopes of one of the best Colby seasons in history is Bowdoin. Bowdoin is also 2-0-0 after beginning its year with a sweep of Wesleyan, including an overtime win Friday night.

Last season, Colby swept the two-game, season-opening set from the Polar Bears, ending a futile stretch of 10 games in which Bowdoin owned a 5-1-2 mark against its heated rival.

“Two programs that have traditionally had a long history of good, strong women’s hockey,” Tyng said. “I think for a long time Bowdoin had the upper edge, and last season we came out and had a really good series against them. Maybe the tables have turned a little bit.

“But when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter history, it doesn’t matter records, you seem to find a way to get up for the Bowdoin game.”

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