In three years of playing hockey for Yale, Evan Wax ’03 accumulated solid offensive numbers: 14 career goals and 37 points.
But in his senior season, the left wing has exploded with 15 scores, already surpassing his career numbers with 10 games remaining in the season.
Wax scored all four Yale goals Saturday as the Bulldogs (11-80, 7-5-0 ECAC, 14 pts.) outlasted intrastate opponent University of Connecticut (6-15-3), 4-3. The performance marked the second time this season that Wax has contributed a 4-goal game.
“It was just a combination of the hard work of my linemates and being in the right place at the right time,” Wax said. “Really all of my success has just been a reflection of the great work [Ryan] Steeves ’04 and [Christian] Jensen ’06 have done.”
Steeves assisted all four of Wax’s goals, while Jensen finished the game with two assists and a plus-3 rating. The line has combined for 31 goals and 42 assists this season.
After the weekend, Wax and Steeves are tied for the team lead in points, while Jensen leads rookies in scoring.
“Our line has definitely been working this year,” Steeves said. “I think Evan and I have always had a good sense for one another on the ice, and Christian has been having a great freshman year, and has done nothing but help our line — he has great speed and offensive talents and has created a lot of chances for our line.”
Goaltender Josh Gartner ’06 turned in another solid performance, finishing the game with 28 saves.
Just 16 minutes into a scoreless first period, Wax scored the first of his four goals after Yale’s revamped forecheck led to Jensen stealing the puck from Connecticut and shooting on the net. Wax pushed in the rebound past Huskie goaltender Artie Imbriano to put Yale ahead 1-0.
Just over two minutes later, Connecticut’s Tim Olsen tapped the puck over the goal line after Gartner lost it between his legs, sending the two teams into the first intermission with the score tied at one.
At 5:57 of the second period, Wax put the Elis on top again with another rebound goal, this one on the power play off an initial shot by center Chris Higgins ’05. The Bulldogs spent much of last week practicing their extra-man play.
Later in the second, Wax completed a hat trick when he wristed a shot from high in the slot that went low past Imbriano. The Connecticut goalie finished with 36 saves on the night.
But the Huskies, whose best play this season has come against top opponents, hung in the game, bringing themselves to within one on a late second period goal that came with 15 seconds remaining in the frame. After Gartner stopped a number of Connecticut shots in several seconds, D.J. Miller finally drove his attempt past the Yale goalie.
“I was impressed by their ability to hang in the game,” Jensen said. “We knew that if we took them lightly it would be a long night and unfortunately there were times in the game when we let up a bit. We allowed them to score in the last minute of the period twice and we shouldn’t be letting anybody do that to us.”
Midway through the third period, Wax scored his fourth goal of the game for the second time this season, pushing in the puck amid a scrum in the crease. In November, he also tallied four in Yale’s come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the University of Vermont.
“Every time the puck goes near Wax lately it ends up in the back of the net,” Jensen said.
But the the Huskies responded with a goal of their own. Ron D’Angelo shot the puck low past Gartner’s glove to pull Connecticut to within one with 7:45 remaining in the game.
For the remainder of the contest Yale held Connecticut scoreless, even after the Huskies pulled Imbriano for over a minute to give them an extra skater, and maintained the 4-3 victory.
Even so, the Elis were largely upset with the defensive effort that allowed the Huskies to stay in the game for so long.
“A win is a win, but this win left us feeling that there are still a lot of things we need to work on,” Wax said. “We can’t let a team like that hang in the game and have defensive lapses that give them great scoring opportunities.”
The game was Yale’s final non-conference contest with a schedule of 10 remaining games, six of which will be played at Ingalls Rink. The Elis are tied for fourth in the league with Union, while Cornell, Harvard and Brown round out the top three.
“We will be working hard this week in practice to fix what went wrong,” Steeves said. “We have a big weekend in the ECAC ahead of us, and now we have to start focusing on playing playoff hockey and fighting for home ice.”