WATERVILLE — To go with its new hockey rink, Colby College can claim one of the best women’s hockey programs in the nation.

Colby hit the ice of the Jack Kelley Rink at the O’Neil|O’Donnel Forum on Tuesday night No. 10 in the United States College Hockey Online (USCHO) Division III rankings. With a 2-1 win over Wesleyan on Tuesday, the Mules now own an 8-1 record, with a 4-1 record in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), along with a four-game winning streak.

“There’s a lot that I like about this team, for sure,” said Colby head coach Holley Tyng, now in her sixth season. “Certainly we have some really great depth. We’re really solid (defensively) in net and on the blue line. We have strength down the middle, which is really awesome to see. Just a lot of versatility and a lot of depth. That’s been good.”

Colby has found success on both ends of the ice in the first half of the season. The Mules are first in the NESCAC in goals scored, with 35 in their first nine games. And though it’s a high volume of goals, no one player stands out in statistics, with the possible exception of senior forward Lexi Cafiero, who has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) for the season.

Colby is also first in the conference in points (93) and assists (58).

“I think there’s been a change in mentality (this year) and wanting to win more,” Cafiero said. “When I was a freshman, we definitely were the underdogs, we didn’t win many games. Now, our team has come a long way and now we’re starting to come out on top of things, and shifting our mentality that we can win some of these (big) games is going to be huge.”

The Mules kept up the offensive surge Tuesday night, crashing the net hard on the Cardinals (6-1, 2-1 NESCAC), outshooting Wesleyan by a 32-27 margin. McKinley Karpa and Tate Senden notched goals for Colby.

The Mules have been just as successful on the defensive end of the ice, allowing just seven goals, second-best in the conference. A huge reason for the defensive success has come from senior goalie Nina Prunster. A native of Salzburg, Austria, Prunster has a 6-1-0 record on the season, with 167 saves and a 0.73 goals against average.

Colby goalie Nina Prunster makes a save against Wesleyan in the first period of a women’s hockey game Tuesday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

It’s not some sort of turnaround season for Colby. If anything, it’s a season of unfinished business. The Mules finished the 2019-2020 season with a 15-6-5 record, falling to Amherst in the semifinals. During the 2018-2019 season, Colby was 12-10-3, and was knocked out by Hamilton in the NESCAC quarterfinals. Colby only played two non-conference games last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of the upperclassmen want revenge (for 2019-2020),” Cafiero said. “We lost to Amherst in the semis (that year) and we definitely thought we should have won that game. I think we’re taking this year with a vengeance. Also, we have a different perspective knowing that last year, it can be taken away from us any second. I think we’re playing every game like it could be our last and really going all out.”

“It’s interesting, too, about two-thirds of our roster is young,” Tyng said. “We have nine freshmen. Even our sophomores didn’t really play a season last year, and we graduated eight seniors last year. It’s an interesting mix of young and old, obviously. But I think the momentum was there in the 2019-2020 season, and I certainly think the returning players are eager to improve on that season. I think we may have an NCAA (tournament) bid in our sights and I think that’s something we’re working towards.”

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