If you are looking for a reason that the men’s hockey team has been able to turn around its season in the last two months, Calhoun College suite 476 would not be a bad place to start.
That is where winger Joe Zappala ’06 and goalie Josh Gartner ’06 reside, when they are not at practice, weight-lifting, or busy studying. The duo have dominated at different ends of the ice this season: Zappala leading the Bulldogs in scoring with 16 goals and 10 assists and Gartner leaving opposing forwards shaking their heads in disbelief.
Sharing success on the ice last year, the two sophomores developed a close friendship off the ice, leading Zappala to transfer from Saybrook to Calhoun.
“I didn’t really know of any kids in Saybrook because I was usually running around a lot,” Zappala said.
In addition to his friendship with Gartner and fellow suitemate defenseman Matt Craig ’06, Zappala pointed to developing a good relationship with Calhoun Master William Sledge and Dean Stephen Lassonde.
“The students who follow hockey certainly take pride in [their being in Calhoun],” said Sledge, who attends home games regularly. “We have seven varsity men’s ice hockey players in Calhoun and we’re proud of all of them. They’re very tight with each other and very supportive of each other on and off the ice.”
Calhoun is not the only place where Gartner and Zappala’s friendship is obvious.
“You can see that they’re together all the time,” captain Vin Hellemeyer ’04 said. “They’re always sitting next to each other [at team meals].”
That camaraderie carries on to the ice at Ingalls Rink, where Zappala’s eight game-winning goals lead the nation and Gartner’s .692 winning percentage is tops in the ECAC. It manifests itself every weekend in games, and more frequently, everyday in practice.
“I always hear about it back in the room after practice if he scores on [me],” said Gartner, who was named ECAC Goalie of the Week on Feb. 2 for the fourth time this season.
The friendly on-ice competition, something many of their teammates take part in, allows the suitemates to push themselves harder in practice, Zappala said.
“Everybody’s such good friends [on the team],” Hellemeyer said. “Things like that carry over onto the ice. You want to go out there and do well for the guy next to you.”
Gartner and Zappala embody that type of chemistry and it is one of the main reasons the Elis rebounded from a 4-9 start and are now within striking distance of the ECAC lead.
While they compete in practice, there are areas where there is no comparison between the two.
“Without a doubt, Joe Zappala has the best accent on the team, maybe in the ECAC,” said Gartner, an Ontario native, about the Medford, Mass. resident. “There’s nobody in the same league as Joe.”
While Gartner praised Zappala’s distinct inflection, teammates were not sure whether to compliment it or lampoon it.
“I guess you could call it the best, [but] some might call it the worst,” Hellemeyer said. “It depends on how you look at it.”
Along with having a reputation for the best/worst accent on the team, Zappala also is known for his intense studying habits.
“I’m always getting organized,” Zappala said. “I’m the studious one. I’m known to have my head stuck in books a lot. The guys give it to me quite often.”
If Zappala can master problem sets and exams the same way he has mastered opposing goalies, he should not have much to worry about in the classroom.
One goalie he does not have to worry about scoring game-winners on is Gartner, who lacks a lot of the eccentric stereotypes commonly associated with the position.
“I’m the responsible one in the room,” Gartner said. “I’m always waiting for [Zappala] and Matt Craig to go to morning lifts.”
Responsibility is a good trait to have for the Elis’ last line of defense, who along with his suitemate, looks to extend the Elis’ (11-10-0, 9-5-0 ECAC) seven-game winning streak when they face Harvard (8-11-2, 6-8-1) and nationally ranked No. 12 Brown (12-5-4, 10-3-1) at Ingalls Rink this weekend.
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