NEW HAVEN, Conn. — On youth hockey night at a sold-out Ingalls Rink, Yale senior Evan Wax stole the show with his second four-goal performance of the season, leading the Bulldogs (11-8-0) to a 4-3 victory over the Connecticut Huskies (6-15-3). Rookie netminder Josh Gartner stopped 28 of 31 shots to earn his third consecutive victory.
“This was a positive win for us in a lot of ways,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “It was our fourth win outside the league (4-3), and we’re on a three-game win streak, which is a nice way to finish out our nonleague schedule and head into a league homestand next weekend. But we have some things to fix, and we need to become a little tighter defensively.”
The Elis outshot UConn 40-31, but Gartner came up big on several occasions to protect Yale’s lead. In the last three contests, the Bulldog goaltender has stopped 87 of the 92 shots he has faced.
Yale put the pressure on early, including Jeff Hristovski’s snap shot off the post four minutes in, but the Huskies had the best early scoring chance. Matt Grew broke away at the blue line and came in unabated on Gartner with 12:56 left in the first, but the Bulldog goalie knocked down Grew’s stick-side shot.
A few minutes later the Bulldogs were on the board. Christian Jensen picked up the first of his two assists on the night by stealing the puck in the right circle and sending it toward the net. Husky netminder Artie Imbriano (36 saves) made the initial stop, but the puck rebounded to Wax on the doorstep and the Eli forward tucked it around Imbriano at 16:10 to put the Elis on top 1-0.
The Huskies fought back, leveling the score just under three minutes later when Gartner saved a Jon Ames shot but was unable to find the puck between his legs, inches from the goal line. Tim Olsen picked up his eighth score of the year when he tipped it across at 18:48 and the penalty-free opening stanza ended with the score tied at 1-1.
The Bulldogs — whose power play has struggled for much of the year but has shown great strides of late — capitalized on their first man advantage of the night early in the second. Chris Higgins sent a low wrister that was handled by Imbriano, but Wax was positioned outside the crease awaiting the rebound. He pulled the puck around the Husky goalie and sent it to the back of the net at the 5:57 mark to give Yale a 2-1 lead.
Wax extended Yale’s lead to two late in the period. Eli center Ryan Steeves (three assists) hit his right wing on the fly outside the blue line and Wax sent a low wrister from the high slot which found its way inside the left post at 14:43, putting Yale on top 3-1.
UConn put together a late flurry in the period’s waning seconds, and after stopping three of the Huskies’ shots, Gartner was unable to stop D.J. Miller’s puck from point-blank range with 15 seconds left in the period to pull the visitors within 3-2.
Wax picked up his fourth goal of the night in an odd sequence around the net midway through the third. Wax, Steeves, and Jensen all poked at a puck which Imbriano could not control, and Wax jarred it free and sent it across the goal line to give Yale the 4-2 lead.
“The puck was lodged between the post and a skate, and the goalie never had possession. [Jensen] poked it free and I got my stick on it to get it over the line.”
Wax — who also scored four goals in a 5-4 win at Vermont early in the season — leads the squad with 15 goals, but said much of the credit should go to his linemates, Steeves and Jensen.
“They do a great job of getting the puck down low, where they know I’m going to be,” Wax said. “[The success] is a reflection of who I’m playing with.”
The Huskies kept it interesting moments later with Ron D’Angelo’s low rocket that beat Gartner glove side at 13:15 to pull UConn to 4-3.
Gartner made several key saves down the stretch to preserve the win for Yale.