The sellout crowd of 3,486 rose to its feet as Joe Zappala ’06 wound up for a game-winning shot attempt late in the third period against Clarkson Saturday.

A Golden Knight defender blocked Zappala’s initial try, but the home crowd and the Eli forward were not to be denied. Zappala regained control and shot again from the slot, beating goaltender Mike Walsh and giving Yale (14-9-0, 10-6-0 ECAC, 20 pts.) a come-from-behind, 5-4 victory over Clarkson (11-15-1, 8-7-1, 17 pts.) Saturday night. Friday night, Yale defeated St. Lawrence (8-16-4, 5-9-2, 12 pts.) 7-2 on the strength of a Chris Higgins ’05 hat trick. The victories, combined with results of other league games, gave Yale sole possession of third place heading into two road weekends.

“I guess that was a game for the fans, for sure,” said forward Nick Deschenes ’03 Saturday, whose backhander 37 seconds before Zappala’s goal tied the game 4-4. “We’ve been winning a lot of games that are blowouts, and it’s good to know we can win a close one.”

Zappala’s goal did not give the Bulldogs any chance to rest. For the final five minutes, Clarkson went on a furious offensive spree, fueled by a power play for the final 2:17 after Mike Klema ’04 was called for a 5-minute major for hitting from behind.

But rookie goaltender Josh Gartner ’06 made a number of key saves, swallowing up the puck several times to prevent rebounds. Gartner finished with 35 saves.

“He’s unbelievable,” Zappala said. “When you’re in a 1-goal game with three minutes left and you have a goalie who can stand on his head like that, it’s huge.”

Yale held 1-goal leads at three different points during the game, but Clarkson managed to tie it each time.

Higgins opened scoring with his 16th goal of the season midway through the first period with a power-play one-timer off a pass from Ryan Steeves ’04. The goal was his fourth of the weekend after a hat trick against St. Lawrence, and Yale’s eighth power play goal in four games.

At 17:51 in the first, Clarkson’s Dale Good took a slap shot that narrowly eluded a sliding Jeff Hristovski ’06 and beat Gartner just under the crossbar to tie the game at one. Goals by Vin Hellemeyer ’04 and Clarkson’s Kevin O’Flahrety brought the score to 2-2 in the second period.

With three minutes remaining in the second frame, defenseman Joe Callahan ’05 recorded his second goal of the season with a high snap shot off of a rebound. A defensive breakdown with twenty seconds remaining in the period allowed a wide-open Rob McFeeters to tie the game heading into intermission.

“The locker room was dead silent, and I saw all these low faces,” Taylor said. “There wasn’t any spark. I told the guys we needed to play a lot harder and pay more attention to detail in the third if we wanted to win.”

Clarkson’s Adam Campana gave his team its first lead of the night two minutes into the third period. For the majority of the period, the Elis had a number of chances to even the score but were unable to find the net until Hellemeyer hit a streaking Deschenes, who tied the game.

Just 37 seconds later, it was Zappala who came up with the clutch score and skated toward the celebrating Yale student section with his arms raised in the air.

“The one thing I’ve learned about this team is that it’s definitely no-quit no matter what period we’re in,” Zappala said. “When Nick [Deschenes] scored, everyone’s confidence went way up.”

Friday night, the Bulldogs survived a first-period scare before routing the St. Lawrence.

Zach Mayer ’06 scored Yale’s first goal with a great pass from Zappala, and three minutes later a great look by Nick Shalek ’05 set up Klema for a breakaway goal. But St. Lawrence battled back to tie the game with two chippy goals close in front of the net.

After killing a 5-on-3 power play, the Bulldogs earned a power play of their own. Higgins’ fast, rising slapshot from the left point gave Yale the 3-2 lead at intermission. Higgins scored two more goals for Yale, with the hat trick coming after he fanned on a shot, regrouped, and scored low past Saints goalie Mike McKenna for a 5-2 lead.

“I faked a shot, then whiffed it, and ended up getting a third chance, so I just threw it on net,” Higgins said.

Steeves’ power play goal early in the third period put Yale up by four, and the freshmen tandem of Mayer and Zappala connected again late in the game, this time with Mayer setting up Zappala for a blistering slap shot.

“He’s a little fireplug,” Zappala said of Mayer. “He’s in there low, and I can go in and be the high guy and read off the play. We’ve been generating a lot of offense that way.”

The pair of freshman have performed well on Yale’s fourth line, which enables the Bulldogs to spread production through their lineup.

The Elis travel to Union and RPI this weekend, the first games of a 4-game stretch on the road.

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