In hockey, it is always a tough task to kill a penalty. To score a goal with one less skater than the opposition is a rare sight.
This season, the men’s ice hockey team has managed to score 17 shorthanded points on eight goals, two of which came in a 3-1 victory over No. 15 Colgate this past weekend.
“[The penalty killers] know what to do when they get the puck on their sticks,” winger Joe Zappala ’06 said. “They’re good goal scorers so they know what to do.”
The Bulldogs penalty-killing forwards occupy the top three spots in the ECAC’s shorthanded scoring rankings. Ryan Steeves ’04 is atop the pack with three goals and three assists. Jeff Hristovski ’06 is close behind with three goals and one assist and Christian Jensen ’06 holds the third spot with a goal and two assists. Nationally, Steeves and Hristovski are tied for fifth in shorthanded goals.
“The forwards really know when to pressure the point,” blueliner Joe Callahan ’05 said. “They’re just making great decisions out there.”
While the forwards have been doing most of the scoring, defensemen Jeff Dwyer ’04, Mike Grobe ’06 and Callahan have all contributed at assisting.
In their first meeting with Colgate — a 3-2 overtime victory Nov. 8 — Yale had mixed success in the man down situation, giving up a power play goal and netting a shorthanded point.
On Friday against Colgate, the Elis were whistled for seven penalties. After killing the first two penalties of the opening frame, the Bulldogs surrendered a power play goal, allowing the Red Raiders to take a 1-0 lead.
The Yale penalty killing unit responded in the second period, when Jensen collected the puck in the defensive zone and raced down on the attack. After crossing the Colgate blueline, Jensen faked a shot and skated around the defenseman, firing a low wrist shot into the back of the net. The goal tied the game and gave Yale the momentum.
After Zappala scored his nation-leading ninth game-winning goal of the season late in the third period. Steeves and Hristovski secured the victory with another man-down tally — the fourth time the duo has connected for a shorthanded score.
The goal came when Steeves poke-checked the puck away from a Colgate defenseman at center ice and skated down in a 2-on-1 with Hristovski on the opposite wing. Waiting until the last minute, Steeves flipped the puck to his teammate who backhanded it into the net, giving the Elis a 3-1 lead.
While a shorthanded goal in a hockey game is uncommon, two is as startling as a safety in football. The Bulldogs have now accomplished the feat twice. The first came in a 4-3 overtime win against Clarkson. The shorthanded goals proved crucial in such a tight game, just as they did against Colgate, resulting in a 4-3 Eli win Jan. 31.
“We have always wanted to have a real aggressive penalty kill,” Jensen said. “We have always tried to pressure other teams a lot. I don’t know if we have been doing anything special or different, we haven’t really been focusing on scoring at all, it has just been happening which has been nice.”
Though it will not be expected, continued offensive production on the penalty kill with boost the Elis in their four remaining regular season games and into the ECAC playoffs.