BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Yale Bulldogs got four goals from Evan Wax, including three in a 24-minute span, and came from behind to nip the Vermont Catamounts, 5-4, in a thriller at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
The cardiac kids of one night earlier proved to be the exact opposite Friday. Vermont opened up a three-goal lead early in the second period on the strength of its special teams, but could not hold the advantage. The Catamounts went three for five on the power play, with all three coming in the opening period.
The penalty kill chipped in, as well when Jeff Miles netted a shorthanded goal. It was his second goal on the night, for a total of 11 in 12 games.
The Bulldogs (4-3-0, 4-2-0 ECAC) struck first just 1:08 into the contest. Centerman Ryan Steeves fed Wax a pass, which Wax one-timed top-shelf past Catamounts goaltender Shawn Conschafter for a 1-0 lead.
Yale dictated play for the first half of the period, negating the Vermont breakout and playing up to its game plan, before Vermont got its chance with a five-on-three power play.
The Cats set up in the offensive zone, and when an aggressive penalty kill overpursued the puck, the pass went down low on the goal line from Thomas Hajek. Oriel McHugh found Miles across ice, and he put the puck in behind Eli netminder Peter Dobrowolski from a sharp angle.
Before the first Vermont goal was even announced, the Cats tallied again. This time Ryan Miller finished off a great tic-tac-toe passing play started by Brady Leisenring for the second power-play goal of three in the period. The two goals were :21 apart, and after an early stumble, the Cats were rolling.
Vermont (4-6-2, 2-4-0 ECAC) was not done yet. The home squad made the score 3-1 and three power-play goals in three attempts. Leisenring capitalized on a scramble in the Yale crease. Hajek and freshman Jaime Sifers assisted on Leisenring’s fourth of the year and second in as many games.
Dobrowolski looked very shaky in the first, allowing the three goals on six shots in the period. Despite the deficit, Yale took a 12-6 shot edge to the intermission.
Miles added the shorthanded goal for a 4-1 lead at 5:46 of the second. A mysterious slashing penalty on Miller gave Yale a power play of its own, and Hajek started the play by getting it out of the defensive zone. Scott Mifsud skated on to the puck at center ice and had Miles to his left. The ECAC’s leading scorer got the puck, stopped on a dime at the circle and wired a wrister past a dejected Dobrowolski.
The sophomore goaltender was chased from the net after surrendering four goals on seven shots.
The Bulldogs blazed the comeback trail from that point forward. Wax got on the board again at 16:31 with his second of the night from Jeff Dwyer and Joe Callahan. The marker gave Yale momentum heading into the Third.
Ryan Steeves wasted little time breaking in alone on Conschafter and burying his third of the season. Greg Boucher and Stacy Bauman assisted.
Wax got the equalizer when it seemed that Vermont was content to sit on its dwindling lead. Just as in Princeton’s case the night before, that strategy proved faulty.
The fourth and final goal of Wax’s night made the comeback complete, on the power play from Chris Higgins and Vin Hellemeyer.
Vermont had chances to tie it up, but goaltender Peter Cohen was up to the task. Yale escaped with the win.
Vermont’s head coach, Mike Gilligan spoke well Yale. “When we were in the lead, the score was deceptive. I thought they still had the edge in play. We had a few lucky bounces — a couple of power-play goals. I thought they controlled the game, for the most part. We didn’t take advantage of where we were.
“The second period, they came out, and they banged us around, softened us up a little bit. We didn’t respond. We took four penalties in the second period to make it even worse.”
Yale head coach Tim Taylor saw the physicality a little differently. “We are not a real physical team. We harp on our guys to compete and to stand up and defend … the red line and the blue line.
“There were a couple of body checks, but I think we were just on the puck quickly; played some tight-gap hockey. It was required, in order to win. There wasn’t much skating room for Vermont.”
Continued Gilligan, “Their physicalness around the boards, their strength on the puck was something that hurt us. We made big mistakes by not getting low in the zone; by not skating through people in the middle of the rink. They did to us what we did to Princeton last night.”
Taylor summed it up: “It was a very exciting night for us — a comeback. And I am real happy with the result. When we were behind, we had all kinds of chances in the second period and all kinds of pressure. We were not gaining any ground. We were still down two goals going into the third. It was more of the same — more pressure. The opportunities, they just fell in.
“After we tied it up, I thought Vermont had an awful lot of good opportunities. It was like the momentum shifted back to them. Peter Cohen was immense in a couple of shifts when we couldn’t get it out of our end. I thought they had an awful lot of pressure. Miles had a point-blank shot on goal, and Peter got a piece of it. He was a big factor. After it was tied, Peter Cohen was the best player on our team. He made some terrific saves.
“It is hard to win on the road in this league. Those were two very important points for Yale hockey.”