WATERVILLE — Goals are paramount to the game of hockey, both because two of them are required to even begin a game and without them neither team on the ice could ever win.

Nobody needs to tell the Colby College men’s team about their significance.

The Mules scored twice in the first 5:09 Saturday afternoon at Alfond Rink and never again, watching Connecticut College rally back for a 3-2 win in their final New England Small College Athletic Conference game before the semester break. Camel defenseman Colin Stevens wristed home a shot through traffic less than eight minutes into the third period to break the deadlock.

Connecticut College junior goalie Connor Rodericks made 41 saves to backstop the Camels.

“Scoring goals is the obvious answer,” Colby junior captain Brendan Murphy said of what’s been missing in the first third of the season. “It’s just second-chance opportunities that we need to get better at. We need to be a little grittier and work harder, work harder when you don’t have the puck to get to the net, and maybe jam home some of the ugly goals that we’re missing right now.”

Colby (3-5-0 overall) has just one NESCAC win this season (1-4-0) after entering the campaign with designs on challenging for the league title. The Mules scored just twice in six periods of hockey over the weekend, a weekend which began with a 2-0 loss to Tufts on Friday night at home.

In their five league games to date, the Mules have scored only eight goals total — five of them in their only win, over Bowdoin on Nov. 23.

Currently, Colby is tied with Amherst College for last in the 10-team NESCAC with just two points. The Mules are off until Dec. 31 when they travel to Endicott College for a non-league game before playing six of their next seven exclusively against NESCAC foes in January.

“The game can be cruel sometimes,” Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald said. “A championship drive really starts in January. And if we can establish our standard of how we’re going to prepare, practice and compete — and if it’s like most of this game — we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

The game got off to a good start for Colby against the Camels (3-5-0, 2-4-0 NESCAC), at least on the scoreboard. Senior netminder Andrew Tucci made 11 of his 27 saves in the first 9:30 of the contest, allowing a scrambly defense in front of him to right the ship and turn it into goals from freshman Carter Breitenfeldt (1:24) and Murphy (5:09).

Just like that, the Mules were up 2-0 and turned up the pressure. They came within inches of adding a third goal early in the second period, first on J.P. Schuhlen’s breakaway bid at the 11-minute mark and then on follow-up chances from both Breitenfeldt and Alex Bourhas.

A third strike never came, and a turnover in their own zone allowed Connecticut to cut the lead to 2-1 at 11:47 off the stick of Chris Adamsons.

“It’s a hockey game. You expect the other team to score a goal,” Murphy said. “It’s about managing your emotions there. They score a goal and you want to say, ‘That’s OK, let’s reset and go score the next one.’ But it’s a little deflating when you’re playing well and you get a tough bounce and they score a goal.

Only 2:18 later, Ryan Petti swatted home a double-deflection in front of Tucci and the Camels had tied the score.

Stevens’ go-ahead goal came seven seconds after a Camel power play expired — a man-advantage which failed to produce a shot on goal — and 31 seconds after Mule junior Justin Grillo was turned away on a shorthanded breakaway bid.

Colby pulled Tucci with 1:26 remaining and generated opportunities to equalize from Bourhas and Thomas, and the rebound chances which resulted, Rodericks held his ground.

“It seems like a lot of these close games, the margins that are deciding them, are loose pucks in front of the net,” Grillo said. “We got pretty lucky today and scored on a 2-on-1, but most of the percentage of the time the goals aren’t going to happen like that. It’s just bearing down in front of the net. They’re never going to be pretty, but the feeling in the locker room (when you lose) isn’t great, so you’d rather just bear down and get the work done and come out with the result.”

“We played a really good game for 60 minutes,” Murphy said. “We had 40-something shots, we did a lot of good things, we just came up short. So, there’s definitely some frustration there. But there’s also a lot of good things we’re doing that — by the law of averages — if you keep doing them they’re going to go in eventually.”

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