Maine Hockey Journal

Colby locks up seventh seed with victory over Tufts

The Colby College men’s hockey team clinched a New England Small College Athletic Conference playoff spot Friday night, but the Mules moved up another spot after a 4-1 victory over Tufts University in the regular season finale Saturday.

The Mules will be the seventh seed in the tourney and play at second-seeded Trinity College on Saturday (time TBA). The Bantams are the defending national champions. Colby played Trinity tough in both losses this season. With games on Sunday, the NESCAC will announce the official pairings tomorrow.

Colby (9-10-5 overall, 6-9-3 NESCAC) scored four goals in the third period, two on power plays and two into an empty net, in moving to 2-0-1 in the last three games. The Mule win puts Tufts as the eighth seed and the Jumbos are at top-seeded Williams College.

Trailing 1-0 entering the third period, the Mules scored a pair of power play goals 1:32 apart to take a 2-1 lead. The Jumbos twice pulled goalie Nik Nugnes late and Colby made them pay with goals each time. Senior Alex Walsh and junior Jack Burton both had a goal and an assist during the Colby comeback, while junior Colin Reilly had two assists.

Tufts took its 1-0 lead on a short-handed goal by Brian Ouellette. The Jumbos scored just eight seconds into their man-down situation following a major penalty and game misconduct. Ouellette’s wrist shot from the mid-slot beat Colby’s Emerson Verrier at 4:52 of the first.

The Jumbos killed the five-minute major and led 1-0 after 20 minutes. Nugnes stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first for Tufts.

Colby turned things around on the power play in the third. At 5:30, first-year Nick O’Connor tipped a shot past Nugnes at the far post. Burton and Reilly had assists on the play.

Tufts soon went in the box again with another five-minute major at 6:56 of the third and just six seconds later the Mules were in the lead on a goal by Burton at 7:02. Reilly had his second assist of the game and Kevin Doherty had the other one.

The Jumbos were able to kill off the remaining 4:54 of the major, but couldn’t stay out of the penalty box as two more minors were whistled on the hosts later in the third. Tufts killed both penalties, including a 1:18 stretch when they were down five on three.

With the clock winding down under two minutes, the Jumbos pulled Nugnes. However, Colby scored just 11 seconds later with sophomore Michael Rudolf’s long shot finding its way into the net. Verrier had his first collegiate assist and Alex Walsh had his fifth of the season.

Down 3-1, the Jumbos tried pulling Nugnes again. However, Colby added to the lead as Walsh scored with 39 seconds remaining to seal the victory. Devin Albert had his ninth assist and Cam MacDonald his 14th.

Verrier earned the win with 32 saves, while Nugnes stopped 39 shots. The Mules finished the game with a 43-33 advantage in shots.

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