The resounding whoosh noise echoing from Prospect Street this weekend was not from the swirling winds that whipped through New Haven; it was the collective sigh of relief from the men’s hockey team, which defeated Princeton (4-5-1, 4-4-0 ECAC) at Ingalls Rink Saturday night for its first victory of the season.
Goalie Matt Modelski ’07 said 10 days ago that his team needed to stop giving excuses and just get a W, and when he got the start in goal against the Tigers, Modelski seemed resolved on getting Yale (1-9-0, 1-7-0) its first win.
Stopping 36 of the 37 shots he saw, the sophomore put in one of the finest goaltending performances of Yale’s young season.
“Modelski played awesome,” forward Zachary Mayer ’06 said of his teammate, who helped the Bulldogs kill all five of Princeton’s power plays.
The win was a sweet ending to an otherwise sour Thanksgiving week for the Bulldogs. While much of Yale was in Cambridge last weekend, partying, tailgating and watching the football team fall to Harvard, the hockey team suffered twin 5-2 home losses to ECAC rivals Rensselaer and Union, and then lost 6-3 at Princeton Tuesday night.
Despite the losses, captain Nick Shalek ’05, who tallied his first point of the season Saturday when he assisted on defenseman Bill LeClerc’s ’07 goal, felt the team benefited from its recent schedule.
“Over the last three or four games we’ve started to build some momentum,” Shalek said. “We felt confident before, when we were losing, so now that we have a win under our belt, we definitely feel good about what lies ahead.”
Goals from five different Elis contributed to the 7-1 blowout against Princeton Saturday.
Center Brad Mills ’07 led the way for Yale with three assists while winger Christian Jensen ’06 tallied twice and Mayer added a goal and an assist. Forward Joe Zappala ’06, who led the Bulldogs in goals last season, also got in on the scoring.
“Good to see him get off the schneid,” Mayer said of Zappala, who scored his second and third goals of the season while adding an assist. “Last year everything he shot went in and this year everything’s been a miraculous save. It was good to see him get a few goals.”
Winger Blair Yaworski ’08 was another standout. With a goal and two assists Saturday, he is now tied for ninth in points among ECAC freshmen.
“Blair has great poise with the puck,” Modelski said. “He doesn’t rush plays and he’s really gifted offensively.”
Mills, another young player, is also making a splash this season. With eight goals and 10 assists — both team highs — the sophomore has emerged as one of Yale’s best playmakers, and he and his linemates Jensen and Jeff Hristovski ’06 have become a legitimate threat on the power play.
But Mills has killed penalties, too, and often does his best work in the defensive zone. While backchecking two weeks ago at Harvard, he delivered a vicious check to Crimson forward Steve Mandes, who fell to the ice before the sound had finished reverberating off the walls of the Bright Hockey Center.
“Mills is the best all-around player [on the team],” Mayer said. “He’s a big guy and he uses his body well in the defensive zone. He also has an incredible shot. He definitely has the ability to score goals, but right now he’s being more of a playmaker for Jensen and Hristovski.”