NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Chris Higgins notched his second hat trick of the season and Zachary Mayer and Joe Zappala each had a goal and an assist as Yale scored the game’s final five goals to defeat St. Lawrence, 7-2, before a sellout crowd of 3,486 at Ingalls Rink.
The Bulldogs set season bests in shots on goal (45), power-play efficiency (3 for 5), and penalty killing (0 for 7) to earn their fifth victory in the last six games. The game marked Yale’s third seven-goal output of the season and the sixth time the Elis have put six points on the scoreboard. Josh Gartner stopped 27 of 29 shots to earn his sixth victory in eight starts.
“I am very happy with the whole game, even though the first period was a little sloppy,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “We played with enthusiasm, energy, and speed … which has got to be the signature of this team.”
Yale lit the lamp first just over seven minutes into the first period thanks to great teamwork from Mayer and Zappala. Mayer fed Zappala the puck at center ice and Zappala controlled it over the blue line as the Elis broke out in a 2-on-1. Zappala hit Mayer in stride at the top of the left circle and Mayer sent the puck inside the left post at 7:13.
Yale doubled its lead 3:14 later with the first of three power-play scores. Nick Shalek, a defenseman playing his second career game, picked up his first career point by feeding Vin Hellemeyer near center ice. Hellemeyer fed Mike Klema, who broke in alone on netminder Mike McKenna (25 saves) and deked to the right before rocketing the puck past the Saint goalie high on the glove side at 10:27.
St. Lawrence capitalized on a defensive breakdown by the Elis less than two minutes later as Jeremy Cormier netted the puck for his first career goal. Cormier backhanded a shot from close range that Gartner saved, but Yale could not control the rebound and Cormier fired it in at 12:06.
Four minutes later the Saints tied the score when Rich Peverley avoided two Eli defenders as he skated cross-ice from the top of the left circle to the top of the right before sending the puck through traffic past a screened Gartner at 14:16.
Even more momentum seemed to go to the visitors when the Saints got a power play just 16 seconds after Peverley’s goal, then had 38 seconds of a 5-on-3 opportunity. But the Bulldogs killed off 3:22 of shorthanded play and soon capitalized on a power play of their own when St. Lawrence was whistled for too many men on the ice.
Higgins scored his first goal since Jan. 17 for the Elis’ second power-play tally of the period. Higgins blasted a one-timer from inside the blue line on the right boards that rocketed high into the back of the net to give Yale the 3-2 lead at 18:44.
The Saints outshot Yale 15-12 in the opening stanza, but the remaining 40 minutes belonged entirely to the home squad. The Bulldogs took 18 shots to St. Lawrence’s five in the second frame.
Higgins scored his second consecutive goal midway through the period after a nicely timed pass from Nick Deschenes, one of three Elis to record two assists on the night. The Eli sophomore fired a hard 25-footer that nicked off of McKenna’s glove before sliding over the goal line at 10:24.
Higgins made it three in a row less than four minutes later with an amazing play. He picked up the puck at the blue line and skated through traffic to take a wrist shot, but fanned initially. He reached back to control the puck and flipped a low shot through the five-hole at 13:56 to put Yale up 5-2.
“I tried to fake a shot, and then I whiffed on one,” Higgins said. “I got another opportunity, and I just wanted to put it on net hoping for a rebound.”
Yale assured the game’s fate 37 seconds into the third period with a power-play goal from Ryan Steeves. The Eli junior netted a rebound from the right corner of the crease after an Evan Wax shot to beat Saint netminder Tim Hall, who replaced McKenna to start the period.
The Mayer-Zappala combination recorded their second score of the night on a long shot from Zappala after a Mayer feed. His low rocket from the top of the left circle beat Hall glove side at 10:37 to give Yale the 7-2 lead.
“Mayer is a big fireplug, always in there quick, so I can be up high and read the play,” Zappala said. “We’ve been working out the kinks on our line and I think we’ve finally found some right combinations.”
Saturday, St. Lawrence travels to Princeton and Yale hosts Clarkson.