The University of New England men’s hockey team reached another plateau Monday, receiving an invitation to the NCAA Division III tournament.

The Nor’easters (20-5-3) received an at-large bid in the 12-team field.

UNE will be home Saturday against Colby (14-10-2), the NESCAC champion, in a first-round game.

UNE, in its ninth season as a varsity program, has never played in the NCAAs. It came close last year, losing in the Commonwealth Coast Conference final.

This year UNE again lost in the final, 8-3 to Nichols on Saturday, missing out on the automatic bid as conference champion.

But UNE got in based on its record – the fifth-best winning percentage in Division III – and strength of schedule (also ranked fifth).

The Commonwealth Coast Conference has three invited teams – 25 percent of the field – with Nichols, UNE and Salve Regina, the regular-season winner.

Brady Fleurent of Biddeford tops Division III in scoring for UNE for a second straight year, with 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists).

Colby won its first NESCAC championship Sunday. The sixth-seeded Mules upset top-seeded Trinity, 4-1.

Saturday’s winner advances to the quarterfinals the following Saturday against the winner of a game between Hobart (18-5-5) and SUNY-Geneseo (19-5-3).