Colby College’s Tess Dupre (17) gets by Bowdoin College’s Izzi Stoddard (4) on her way to taking a shot on Polar Bear goalie Dani Marquez (1) during a game last November in Waterville Michael G. Seamans

 

WATERVILLE — It’s likely Alfond Rink hosts its final college hockey game this weekend, the symmetry is so perfect it’s impossible to miss.

Earning its highest New England Small College Athletic Conference seeding in program history, the Colby College women host No. 7 Bowdoin College in the league quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon. A win would get the Mules (14-5-5 overall) to the NESCAC semifinals for the first time since 2014 and close out the Alfond with a victory over their most bitter and longstanding rival, a team Colby swept in a two-game series Nov. 22-23.

“It’s almost like it’s come full circle, ” said Colby senior forward Moira Mullaney. “We’re kind of just trying to focus on the game and not trying to look past it. But we’re aware this could be the last game in Alfond, so it is crossing some of our minds. … It feels like a fitting way to send out Alfond. It didn’t feel right at the beginning of the year with a whole season to play, but it feels fitting now.”

In the other three NESCAC quarterfinals this weekend, nationally-ranked No. 2 Middlebury hosts Trinity College, Amherst entertains Connecticut College and Hamilton hooks up with Williams. The NESCAC semifinals and finals are hosted by the highest remaining seed following the quarterfinals, meaning it would take a Trinity upset over Middlebury — and a Colby win over Bowdoin — for Alfond Rink’s hockey life to be extended. The Colby men’s and women’s programs move into the new athletic complex on campus beginning next fall.

Alfond Rink opened in 1955.

“We’ve been working toward something together, for sure,” said Colby fourth-year head coach Holley Tyng, whose program is making its third straight quarterfinal appearance having gone 0-4 in its previous four games in the opening round of the NESCAC playoffs. “I don’t want them to be satisfied, but I do want them to appreciate what they’ve done here. We think about earning what we get on a daily basis. What I try to instill in the players is to focus on what’s in front of us, really preparing and being deliberate in our preparations.

“I don’t sit and think about the big picture, but it is really special in my short time here at Colby to see where we’ve come from and certainly where we’re going as we head into the new building.”

The bread and butter for Colby this season has been its team defense. The Mules rank 13th in NCAA Division III with a 1.50 goals against average this season, and sophomore netminder Nina Prunster’s 1.24 goals against (13th) and .950 save percentage (9th) have helped Colby post six shutouts in 24 games this season.

Against a Bowdoin team (8-13-3 overall) averaging a hair over 2.0 goals per game — in the bottom third nationally — that type of stinginess in their own end should help the Mules. The Polar Bears scored just one goal in the two games against Colby this season.

“Over the last month, the resilience is what’s stuck with me,” Tyng said. “We haven’t gone into every game playing our best or being the most healthy, but we’ve been able to find a way. It’s resilience, it’s never-say-die, it’s sticking to the game plan, it’s leadership — that’s been in place all season.”

The Mules are hosting their first NESCAC playoff game since 2009, an achievement in and of itself. Four seasons ago, Colby went winless in the NESCAC (0-15-1) and won just eight total games in 2016-17 and 2017-18 combined. This year the Mules bookended the regular season with impressive nine-game runs. The first (8-0-1) marked one of the best starts in program history, the latter a 5-1-3 stretch including four road games to close out the campaign and lock up the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.

“It’s a big moment for the school. It’s a big moment for everybody,” Colby senior Cassidy Holzer said. “Freshman year we used to say, ‘Nobody is betting on us except for us,’ and we always said we were going to host a playoff game before we graduate. We talked a lot over the years about how we were going to get there and about really buying in. Freshman year, we got swept by (Bowdoin) and that was one of the lowest points we’ve felt. There’s so much on the line and everybody feels what we do here against them.”

It’s a big weekend for Colby given so many of the historic storylines at play.

It’s especially significant for a senior class numbering five — including center Tess Dupre, tied for the team lead in goals (8), assists (11) and points (19) — and student assistant coach Taylor Methven.

“Our record has shown we’ve done pretty well,” Mullaney said. “I think that we did build upon the successes that we had (each weekend), and it built confidence. Once we beat one team, it was ‘Who’s next?’ And now Bowdoin is next.”


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