WATERVILLE — Off one of the worst performances of the season 48 hours earlier, the message for the Colby College men’s hockey team was a simple one from the head coach’s office: Remember this game is supposed to be fun.

The Mules shook off an ugly conference loss Saturday with their most complete effort of the season at Alfond Rink, skating to a 1-1 tie against No. 8 University of New England in a non-conference game Tuesday night at Alfond Rink. Brett Mecrones scored early in the first period for the Commonwealth Coast Conference-leading Nor’easters, before Mike Morrissey knotted the score for Colby midway through the second.

Senior netminder Andrew Tucci, roughed up on three soft goals in a loss to Hamilton College over the weekend, was outstanding in a 40-save effort for Colby (5-6-2) against the nation’s second-highest scoring offense. He was matched only by counterpart Ben Churchfield, who stopped 41 shots for UNE (11-3-2).

Colby was without its two top scorers — Justin Grillo (injury) and J.P. Schuhlen (scratched) — and featured several new faces in the lineup.

“To hold that team to one goal, that’s a really impressive effort by us,” Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald. “We just had to remember that we work really hard to play this game, train all summer, just go have fun. Let’s go play. I think we played freer.”

Colby senior defenseman Mark Leprine noted the tie was as much about effort as it was execution. The key for the Mules moving forward is to carry that same mindset into this weekend’s New England Small College Athletic Conference games at Wesleyan and league-leading Trinity.

Colby sits ninth in the 10-team NESCAC.

“We really just got out-competed on Saturday. There were a lot of guys not competing as hard as we could have,” Leprine said. “A lot of it’s mental for us. We’ve had a few good games this year — we’ve taken a step forward and taken a step back it seems. Yes, this is a good first step, but it’s something we need to keep doing and not go back to our old ways.”

Caught napping early, the Mules coughed up the opening goal when Tucci kicked the rebound of a Tyler Seltenreich shot out to the left circle for Mecrones to deposit ahead of recovering Mule defenseman Austen Halpin only 5:23 into the contest.

Things got better for Colby before the first period was out, and by the midway point of the second the Mules had strung together enough good shifts to keep the Nor’easters on their heels.

A UNE turnover in the neutral zone sprung Alex Bourhas up the right wing, and the freshman spotted Morrissey driving hard through the slot area. Morrissey tied the score with a one-timer top shelf off Bourhas’ saucer pass.

“We changed our forecheck (after Saturday),” MacDonald said. “I believe if you forecheck well… We changed our forecheck and the guys executed it really well. We changed it in a big way.”

“One thing we pride ourselves on in the Colby hockey tradition is a lot character and playing with heart,” Bourhas said. “That’s what we did. We went back to the drawing board, changed some things up, implemented a new forecheck and we executed it. That’s what sports is about — executing the little things. We played the right way, and when you play the right way things happen.”

Morrissey, Halpin, Quinn Doyle, Jacob Thousand, Spencer Hewson and Logan Clarke produced a flurry of activity around the UNE net midway through the third period but could not find the go-ahead goal, thanks to some quality goaltending from Churchfield.

In overtime, Hewson redirected Velan Nandhakumaran wrister that forced Churchfield to look behind him early, and a Chris Jones bid at the other end deflected in the air and behind Tucci but never got to the net.

UNE went 0 for 3 on the power play, including one in overtime, despite entering the game having cashed in 25 percent of the time with the man advantage. As a team, Colby blocked 12 shot attempts in front of Tucci.

“The biggest thing in hockey is just to bounce back whenever you’ve fallen,” Bourhas said. “Whether it’s from a game, a shift or a goal scored against. We didn’t play our best Saturday, so this was just a huge statement game for us against a nationally-ranked team. This was an unbelievable game for us, but we still haven’t even tapped into what we’re capable of as a lineup.

“It’s a step in the right direction.”

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