Men's hockey set for NCAA quarterfinal battle with Geneseo

WATERVILLE, Maine – At this time of the year, the Colby College men’s hockey team has no problems taking their show on the road. Playing in the middle of March means you are in the NCAA Division III Tournament, and you follow the brackets.

Colby will gladly spend its fifth straight weekend on the road when the Mules play at third-ranked SUNY Geneseo in an NCAA quarterfinal game Saturday at 7 p.m. The webcast for the game is at https://boxcast.tv/view/mens-ice-hockey---colby-at-geneseo-668063

The Mules are by now used to packing up the bags, hopping on the bus and sleeping in hotels, having ended their regular season with away games at Connecticut College and Tufts University. Then came a NESCAC quarterfinal game at Amherst, followed by a weekend at Trinity College for the league semifinals and championship game. After winning the conference title, Colby played a first round game at University of New England last Saturday.

“This weekend will be our fifth weekend in a row on the road, but I think our guys love being around each other and being `road warriors’,” said Blaise MacDonald, the Jack Kelley Head Coach for Men’s Hockey. “I think the issue of being on the road for us is more physical than it is emotional or psychological.”

The Mules will have their toughest test to date against a strong Geneseo squad. The Knights are 20-5-3 overall and have scored 124 goals. Geneseo has five Division I transfers on the roster.

Colby’s one Division I transfer­­­—senior goaltender Sean Lawrence—is a big reason why the Mules are in the elite eight. He has allowed only 10 goals in Colby’s current eight-game (6-0-2) unbeaten streak. Lawrence has given up just five goals in the Mules’ four playoff wins.

Colby’s defense has played well in front of Lawrence, blocking more than 50 shots in the wins against Trinity and University of New England. Senior tri-captain Dan Dupont, Mark Leprine, Michael Decker, Andrew Reis, Thomas Stahlhuth, and Billy Overby have helped cut the shots down on Lawrence.

The Mules’ offense continues to pile up goals during the current unbeaten streak. Kienan Scott (11 goals, 15 assists), Phil Klitirinos (8 goals, 18 assists), Cam MacDonald (15 goals, 9 assists), Nick O’Connor (11 goals, 13 assists), and Justin Grillo (6 goals, 15 assists) are leading scorers.

“In our last four games, we have outscored our opponents 18-5.  We have had really balanced scoring and big goals from our fourth line, or what we call our grey line,” MacDonald said. “Zack Hale scored a huge goal against Trinity and Joe Schuler scored a big goal in our NCAA game against UNE. I feel the line of Mario Benicky, Phil Klitirinos, and Spencer Hewson have been our best line over the last few weeks.”

Benicky had the go-ahead goal with 6:29 left in regulation when the Mules fell 4-3 in overtime to Geneseo in last year’s Colby/Bowdoin Face-Off Classic. The Knights, though, scored with just 25 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and then scored at 2:50 of overtime. Geneseo had a slight 42-40 edge in shots.

“It was a game played at a high pace and with an exceptional transition element to it,” MacDonald said. “Both teams created some exciting scoring chances and the compete-level was high.”

Conlan Keenan, who scored the overtime goal last year against the Mules, leads Geneseo in scoring this year with 18 goals and 21 assists for 39 points. Geneseo has no seniors among its top eight scorers. Tyson Empey (21 goals, 15 assists) and Andrew Romano (6 goals, 30 assists) both have 36 points.

Devin McDonald had 39 saves against the Mules last year and played 91 percent of the minutes this year. Lawrence was not even playing with Colby when the two teams met in November. Andrew Tucci was in net and had a fine game with 36 stops.