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Joe Zappala ’06 found his scoring touch when it mattered most.

The Eli winger came through in the clutch with his eighth game-winning goal of the season, setting both a national and a Yale record. He scored with three seconds left in overtime to defeat Clarkson University (11-10-5, 6-6-2 ECAC) 4-3 Saturday night. The contest came on the heels of a 5-4 victory over St. Lawrence (9-15-4, 5-8-1) Friday.

Zappala had been frustrated by the opposing defenses in both games.

“Going into overtime [Saturday], I was pretty mad at myself,” Zappala said. “I wasn’t doing enough to contribute.”

Center Ryan Steeves ’04 missed the net on a rebound off of a Jeff Hristovski ’06 shot. Steeves’ attempt missed wide, but bounced off a Golden Knight defenseman’s skate and came to Zappala alone in front. As the clock wound down, Zappala put his shot past Clarkson netminder Kyle McNulty.

“It was unbelievable,” Yale goalie Josh Gartner ’06 said. “We gave up a two goal lead in the third period. It really made the weekend.”

Zappala’s eighth game-winner broke Yale’s all-time leading scorer Jeff Hamilton’s ’01 record of seven in a season.

“It’s definitely a good feeling just being a part of Yale history,” Zappala said.

While Zappala’s goal won the game in overtime, Gartner’s 41 saves and his play between the pipes kept Yale in it. Gartner has averaged just under forty saves in his last three starts.

“The biggest thing is getting the sweep,” Gartner said. “I just try to do what I can.”

The Bulldogs entered the third period leading 2-1, with two shorthanded goals, one from the combined effort of captain Vin Hellemeyer ’04 and Hristovski. Defenseman Jeff Dwyer increased the lead to two with a howitzer from the top of the right circle at 1:40 for his fourth of the season.

The Golden Knights fought back with a power play goal from Jay Latulippe at 13:15, and with McNulty pulled at 19:20, a goal from Matt Nickerson forced OT, setting up Zappala’s heroics.

On Friday night in Canton, N.Y., winger Christian Jensen ’06 scored 38 seconds into the third period on the power play to give Yale a 5-1 lead. A third period Saints rally fell short, making Jensen’s score the game-winner.

ECAC goal scoring leader T.J. Trevelyan tallied on the power play at 13:00 to pull St. Lawrence within one, but the Saints could not tie the game.

The Elis were stellar on special teams, killing off seven of eight St. Lawrence power plays and going 3-6 on the man advantage.

“We’ve been focusing on being aggressive [shorthanded and] pressur[ing] them whenever they don’t have clear possession of the puck,” Hellemeyer said. “It can win you some games.”

The Saints kept Gartner busy the entire night, but the Eli goalie turned away 39 shots on the night.

Goalie Kevin Ackley and the St. Lawrence’s defense and could not slow down the Bulldogs’ offense until the third period. The Elis scored four goals on seventeen shots in the first two periods.

Hristovski, C.J. Nibbe ’05, Joe Callahan ’05, Brad Mills ’07, and Jensen each lit the lamp.

Callahan’s goal was his sixth of the season, the most in the ECAC by a blueliner.

Defensively, Yale has limited the opposition’s transition scoring opportunities that plagued it early in the season but has given up thirty or more shots in its last six games and forty or more in four of those games.

After starting the season 4-9, the Elis are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are tied for third in the ECAC with Dartmouth (11-10-0, 9-5-0). The Elis have now won six consecutive conference games and seven regular season games overall. The Empire State road sweep was the Elis’ (11-10-0, 9-5-0) first since the 1985-1986 season.

“If somebody told me before the RPI/Union weekend [Dec. 5 and 6] we were going to be 11-10, I would have laughed at them,” Gartner said.

Yale faces one of its biggest tests of the season this weekend, when it hosts rival Harvard (8-10-2, 6-8-1) Friday night and ECAC-leading Brown (12-5-1, 10-3-1) Saturday night.

“We could move up in the standings,” Hellemeyer said. “These are two huge games for us.”

News and Notes:

Yale’s second forward line played a huge role in the weekend’s victories. The trio of Hellemeyer, Mills, and Jensen registered nine points in the weekend’s two games. Hellemeyer, after a slow start to the season, has registered a point in each of his last six games. “I was getting chances in the beginning of the year, I was just a little snakebitten,” Hellemeyer said. “Things have turned around since the new year. I finally feel like I’m beginning to pull my weight.” When the Bulldogs return to New York in two weeks to face Colgate (15-8-3, 10-4-0) and No. 14 Cornell (8-7-6, 6-5-3), the Big Red might not be the toughest game of the weekend. The second place Raiders defeated Cornell twice over the weekend, 2-0 and 2-1, to increase their winning streak to six. The Crimson are set to participate in one of college hockey’s greatest traditions today — the 52nd Beanpot. The tournament pits the four Boston area hockey programs against each other. Harvard faces No. 2 Boston College (19-3-3) in one semifinal, while Boston University (7-10-6) plays Northeastern (7-12-4) in the other bracket.
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