As someone who has played four years of hockey at Norwich University, forward Colin Mulvey feels he can get a sense of how a game’s going, no matter what the scoreboard says.
Early in the third period of last month’s Division 3 national semifinal against Oswego in Lake Placid, N.Y., with the score tied 2-2, he got the sense the game was going Norwich’s way. His team was carrying play for the first several minutes and had chances to take the lead.
“I thought it was going to be our game going into the third,” said Mulvey (Worcester, Mass.). “Unfortunately, we didn’t capitalize on our chances and they did.”
The game turned, and it turned quickly. Oswego’s Chris Muise got free on a transition rush, and his shot clipped the stick of defenseman Corey Hale and found the net. The Lakers added two more goals in the next six minutes and held on for the 6-3 win that advanced them to the national championship game for the second straight year.
Meanwhile, it’s the third year in a row that Norwich (24-4-1) has seen its season end in the national semifinals.
“In the third period, I thought it was leaning our way for the first six or seven shifts,” said Norwich coach Mike McShane (Wakefield, Mass.). “I thought after (the goal) we didn’t play well for the next five to eight minutes. We just let down and that’s too bad.”
No, not everything develops the way it seems it will.
Just look at Mulvey.
Five days after the Cadets’ season ended, the 5-foot-9 senior was recognized with the 13th annual Joe Concannon Award, presented to the top American-born Division 2 or 3 player in New England. It’s the ultimate recognition of his breakout senior year, where his team-high 19 goals and 38 points practically matched his career numbers coming in.
The award links him to another undersized, productive Norwich great — Keith Aucoin (Chelmsford, Mass.), who’s continuing his pro career this year with the New York Islanders.
“It’s a great reward,” said Mulvey, a former St. Peter Marian and Valley Jr. Warriors skater. “I was told that the only other player to receive it for Norwich was Keith Aucoin. Pretty good company to be in.”
Upon arriving in Northfield, Vt., in 2009, nobody was really sure what company Mulvey would be in.
Smallish, thinnish, with no jaw-dropping tools beyond some swift skating ability, he was considering a military career before Norwich showed some interest. Four years later, he’s leaving with a degree in mechanical engineering and some impressive hardware.
“He always had speed and could shoot the puck,” said Andy Heinze (North Andover, Mass.), who coached him with the Jr. Warriors. “He didn’t have the vision and the real understanding of how the game’s played at the higher levels until he got there.
“I give (Norwich) credit, too, for seeing what Colin could become and sticking with him. I don’t think it was real easy for him.”
“When he first came here we were projecting him to be a fourth-liner,” said McShane. “When he came back this year you could see (a difference). Very determined, persistent type of guy. He figured out how to get better.”
This was not a Norwich team that overwhelmed opponents with offense. Its standouts got their points — junior Travis Janke matched Mulvey’s 38 — but its average output of 4.0 goals a game was down and its power play (17.1 percent) struggled mightily down the stretch.
But with good defense and goaltending from Chris Czarnota (Wakefield, Mass.) and Matic Marinsek, the Cadets won most of their close games. Sixteen of their games were decided by two goals or fewer. They beat Babson, 4-0, in an NCAA quarterfinal, avenging a 2-1 loss a week earlier in the ECAC East championship game.
In Mulvey’s first three years, he managed 24-16-40 totals in 78 games. As a freshman, he was a lower-line “energy” guy on the national championship team, doing his job while classmates like Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) and Pier-Olivier Cotnoir were being projected as future stars.
He spent last summer working out at Boston University, spending an hour each day on his stick-handling and unloading 600 shots a day. Skating on a line with Janke and senior Tory Allan (10-21-31), he found a connection that clicked practically right out of the gate.
“My strongest asset is my skating,” he said, “so being able to work on stick-handling and shooting really helped.”
“You know what? You love to see guys like Colin get there,” said Heinze. “A quiet, no-nonsense kind of kid. … You love to see kids like Colin really excel. It didn’t surprise me, but it put a big smile on my face.”
There’s a reason the NCAA gives college athletes four years of eligibility. And right now, Mulvey’s their poster child.
“Good for him for developing,” said McShane. “Technically, his skill level when he first came here was just OK. He could skate. That and he worked hard.
“It’s a great example of the harder you work, the chances of you getting better are more. He’s a great example of a workaholic. He’s the first kid on the ice every day and he shoots more pucks than anybody. Those shots turned into goals this year.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.