NEW HAVEN, Conn. — In a gloomy press conference following Friday night’s 6-2 loss to Cornell, Yale head coach Tim Taylor described a team still searching for some kind of spark to ignite its play in tough situations.
Saturday, Yale found not one, but two. Joe Zappala’s score with just 20.4 seconds to play in overtime gave Yale the 3-2 victory that could not have been earned without rookie goaltender Matt Modelski’s stunning 41-save night.
“We sure needed that tonight,” said a relieved Taylor following the win, in which Yale gave up a 2-0 lead late in the game. “It was a great boost, and it’s a totally different atmosphere in the locker room.”
The game improved Yale to 1-3-0 (1-1-0 ECAC) while dropping Colgate to 3-2-1 (1-1-0 ECAC). The Raiders outshot Yale 43-23.
The Bulldogs nearly experienced another frustrating night, as they gave up a 2-0 lead in the third period off two goals from Colgate’s Kyle Wilson. In addition, a penalty on forward Brad Mills late in the game forced Yale to play the last minute of regulation and the first minute of overtime a man down.
But fueled by Modelski’s outstanding performance in his first collegiate start, the Elis regained their rhythm in the extra session. With under 30 seconds remaining before the game would end in a tie, Yale’s Jeff Hristovski dug the puck out from the corner and sent it toward the net.
A good play from Bobby Burns, who skated around the crease and backhanded the puck in front of the net, was made better when Zappala was there to snap it high past Colgate goaltender Steve Silverthorn for the hard-fought victory.
“The puck just popped out in front, and I started to lick my chops and then put it upstairs,” Zappala said. “I was not having a good game and I knew I had to do something to start pulling my weight, and luckily it happened at the right time.”
The story on the other end of the ice was the performance of Modelski in his first collegiate start. After an inauspicious beginning in which he missed the first 33 seconds of the game due to an illegal chin strap on his helmet, the freshman posted a performance which earned him the first star of the game.
“It’s a heck of a way to break in a career — in an overtime game,” Modelski said. “It’s amazing now. We always said the hardest part was picking up that first win.”
After having difficulties in their own end last night, the Elis tightened up on their play in the first period with strong physical coverage on defense, and Colgate was similarly stingy as the two teams combined for just 13 shots in the first frame.
Yale defenseman Jeff Dwyer finally broke the scoreless tie at 9:59 of the second period with a power-play goal. Ryan Steeves won a faceoff to Joe Callahan, who sent a cross-ice pass to Dwyer on the right point. The senior blueliner wound up and one-timed the puck past Silverthorn’s glove and just inside the right post to give Yale the 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs added to their slim lead at 13:29 of the third period after Christian Jensen stole the puck while killing off a penalty and skated the length of the ice on a breakaway. Silverthorn managed to stuff Jensen, but he could not stop Steeves, who was waiting at the crease to knock in the rebound to give Yale the 2-0 advantage.
But Colgate responded with a powerful effort, cutting Yale’s lead in half at 9:40 of the third period when an open Kyle Wilson took a wrist shot from in between the circles that eluded Modelski glove side.
A costly tripping penalty on Eli defenseman Shawn Mole led to a Colgate power play in which Wilson tallied his second goal of the night, flicking the puck high and over Modelski from the right side near the crease to tie the score at two.
For the remainder of regulation, it seemed that Colgate had the momentum advantage, peppering the Elis with shots and keeping the puck in Yale’s zone with a strong and spirited forecheck. The Raiders outshot Yale 18-6 in the final period.
“[Modelski] was sensational in his debut,” Taylor said. “He had a lot of very good saves and was very quick. He had an air of excitement that the players were able to feed off of.”
With a minute to play in the game, Yale’s fortunes seemed to take a turn for the worse when Mills was called for high-sticking. But Yale fought off the power play and earned the win with Zappala’s goal.
Colgate’s Silverthorn finished the night with 20 stops.