It was appropriate that on Youth Day at Ingalls Rink, Joe Zappala ’06 and the men’s ice hockey team taught everyone a lesson in goal scoring.
The Eli winger notched his second hat trick of the season and added an assist in a 6-4 victory over the University of Connecticut (5-10-5) on Saturday. His third goal proved to be his seventh and nation-leading game-winner of the year. Despite falling behind early to a scrappy Husky team, the Bulldogs (9-10-0, 7-5-0 ECAC) bounced back, with goalie Josh Gartner ’06 making 39 stops en route to Yale’s fourth consecutive victory.
With the game knotted at four in the third period, UConn captain Eric Nelson went to the penalty box for interference at 11:30. Approximately one minute later, center Ryan Steeves ’04 fed Zappala on the doorstep from behind the net.
Zappala put the puck past Husky netminder Scott Tomes, tying him for the ECAC lead in goals with 15.
“We recruited [Zappala] to be a scorer and he’s a scorer,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “That’s what Joe does best. He’s a determined kid with the puck.”
Zappala also secured a spot in the record books, tying Yale’s all-time leading scorer Jeff Hamilton ’01 for the single season mark for game-winning goals.
“It just seems like everything is going right for me right now,” Zappala said. “I really don’t know what to say, it’s a fairytale season for me. I’m having a blast.”
UConn could not find an answer for Yale’s top offensive line of Zappala, Steeves and winger Jeff Hristovski ’06 who notched four points each. The trio netted four goals, including two power-play tallies.
“We just have chemistry together and having Joe Zappala, where every shot he takes goes in; he just can’t go wrong right now,” Hristovski said. “It’s really great.”
Hristovski’s four assists on the night tied the school record for assists in a game by a sophomore. He leads the team in helpers with 15, which is good for fourth in the ECAC.
Despite their offensive prowess, Yale was vulnerable on defense. The Huskies outshot the Bulldogs 43-28. Sixteen UConn shots came in the opening period. The four goals tallied against the Elis were the most Yale had allowed since Dec. 27.
“I was really afraid we would [be] casual about [this game],” Taylor said. “I really stuck it to them and lambasted them after the first period. You don’t get that many shots on a team if a team is focused and concentrated.”
The Huskies opened the scoring less than one minute into the game when Brian Burn wristed a shot from the top of the left face-off circle that beat Gartner up high.
Zappala tied the game roughly two minutes later, poking in the puck while falling in front of the net after Hristovski hit the post on a pass across the crease from Steeves.
The Huskies regained the lead, but goals from centerman Brad Mills ’07 and Steeves gave Yale the lead heading into the intermission.
Zappala extended the Bulldog lead in the second, lighting the lamp on a snap-shot from the right face-off circle at 4:14, beating Tomes up high. Steeves and Hristovski assisted on the goal.
The Huskies refused to quit, however, getting back to within one at 6:54, when ColeÊKoidahl took the puck wide down the left side of the ice, cut across the crease, and snuck the puck past Gartner.
The Eli netminder protested that the puck was kicked in, but the goal stood.
“Coach warned us [UConn was] going to play us tough,” Steeves said. “They play well against good teams and we figured that out in about the first two shifts.”
The Huskies were coming off of a 1-1 tie against ECAC-leading Brown (9-5-4, 9-3-1).
In the third period of Saturday’s game, UConn tied the game at four when BeauÊMcLaughin banged in a loose puck past a diving Gartner at 8:13, but Zappala regained the lead for Yale and Nate Murphy’s ’04 fourth goal of the season gave the Elis some insurance.
Yale hosts the USA Under-18 team in an exhibition game Saturday night at Ingalls Rink and returns to conference play at St. Lawrence (7-14-4, 3-7-1) Jan. 30.
Since starting the season 2-7, Yale has gone 7-3 in its last 10 games.
“We’re getting better,” Taylor said. “The whole thing they’ve learned from this streak is that the rewards are there.”
News and Notes:
One of the big keys for the Bulldogs against the Huskies was special teams. Yale went 2-4 on the power-play, while the Eli penalty killing unit did not allow a goal on any of UConn’s four man-advantage opportunities. The Elis also played a very physical game against the smaller-built Huskies. Hristovski, defenseman Jeff Dwyer ’04, defenseman Joe Callahan ’05 and other Elis made their presence know early and often. “We are working hard to become a more physical team,” Taylor said. “We have to stand up for ourselves, we have to get better along the wall and close to the blue line.” In ECAC action, Rensselaer (12-9-2, 7-4-1) stunned No. 10 Cornell (7-4-6, 5-2-3) in Ithaca Saturday night. The Engineers, who Yale defeated 5-4 Dec. 5, shut-out the Big Red 2-0 in Ithaca, N.Y. It was the first shutout Cornell had suffered at home since 1998 and bumped RPI ahead of both Yale and Dartmouth (7-4-6, 5-1-4) into second place in the conference.