He is the only college hockey player this season to record two 4-goal games, but the first thing that catches your eye about Evan Wax ’03 has nothing to do with his scoring touch.
“I’m probably the worst-looking skater in the ECAC,” laughs Wax. “My scouting reports always said ‘Wax is an awkward skater,’ and that’s definitely an understatement.”
But don’t let it fool you — Wax is in the midst of a career season that has earned him enormous respect from the college hockey world and helped propel his team to third place in the 12-team ECAC league.
“Wax is such an enthusiastic senior, and he’s so focused on having such a good year,” said linemate Ryan Steeves ’04. “We just have fun — that’s like our motto.”
A look at Wax’s career numbers tells the entire story of just how big a year the right wing has been having. Entering this season, Wax had compiled solid career numbers of 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 65 games. In his 24 games this season, he is only three points shy of matching those numbers, racking 17 goals and 17 assists.
“When I met with him in the spring last year, I said Evan, you’re a 20-point a year player, and I think you can make the extra effort and get to the 30-point range,” head coach Tim Taylor said. “But I did not anticipate him finding the back of the net as much as he did this year — it’s been a pleasant surprise.”
The 6-foot 1-inch winger spent his high school years at the Long Island, N.Y., Portledge School, a small school where Wax captained the hockey team and earned the Portledge Cup for best exemplifying sportsmanship qualities.
But it was his play for the New York Applecore, the club team he and Eli teammate Vin Hellemeyer ’04 played for, that earned him recognition from college coaches.
Wax said he looked at Dartmouth and Harvard in addition to Yale, but in the end it was a “no-brainer” to come to New Haven.
“Everyone I met here was so nice and so great, and Coach Taylor is a great name in hockey,” he said.
It was mid-November, with the Bulldogs trailing 4-1 to the University of Vermont on the road, when Wax first gave the indication that this season was going to be special. After opening scoring with his third season goal, Wax added three more — including the game-tying and game-winning goals — to secure the comeback victory and earn ECAC Player of the Week and USCHO Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Four game goals is rare enough, but Wax did it again a month ago against Connecticut, scoring all four Yale goals in the Elis’ 4-3 victory and garnering his second ECAC Player of the Week title. The always-humble Wax deflected credit to linemates Steeves and Christian Jensen ’06.
“So much of hockey is just capitalizing on your chances and playing with great people,” Wax said. “I mean, in the UConn game, Steeves had all four assists. They’re going to create; I just have to put it away.”
But Wax has not been the only person benefiting from his close-knit line. Steeves, off the strength of 22 assists this season, leads the team in scoring; Jensen is the top Bulldog rookie.
“To score four goals in a college hockey game is ridiculous,” Jensen said. “It speaks to his abilities as a hockey player. He has great instincts and great hands, and I can’t really say how he does it, because there’s no one way he scores his goals.”
The majority of Wax’s goals come from his strength and persistence in front of the net, where he has the uncanny ability to finish nearly every pass, rebound, or loose puck in his vicinity.
“He’s not a smooth and fluid player, and he doesn’t get by by being the picture of grace out there,” Taylor said. “He gets by by being very smart positionally and being very sensible with what he does, and he certainly has a nose for the net and a knack for scoring.”
Thus far this season, Wax has been doing something right in his pregame rituals.
“Wax has got to be the most superstitious guy on campus,” Steeves said. “Before every single game he puts on this muscle cream, and it’s so hot on his legs that he can’t sit down and has to pace around the locker room. Then if you watch him before each game, he comes up to me and Christian [Jensen] and gets in our faces and punches us and makes us punch him. It’s little things like that.”
In addition, Johnny Wax, his younger brother, has become the team’s good luck charm, with the Elis going 8-1 since the younger Wax became team water boy.
And for the senior, whose Davenport cheering section has missed only about two hockey games in his career, this season has certainly been fun: the Elis currently stand to grab a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs.
But it’s not as if the superstitious Wax will talk about that prospect.
“I shouldn’t talk about that,” he said, laughing. “I don’t want to jinx us.”