NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A pair of struggling teams faced off Saturday, with the Yale Bulldogs earning a much-needed win over Vermont in a 6-4 contest. The win improves Yale to 2-6-0 on the season, while UVM fell to 0-9-2 in what has been a difficult season for both teams thus far.
Joe Zappala, who scored two of Yale’s four goals in Friday’s 9-4 loss to Dartmouth, had another big game for the Bulldogs, earning a hat trick and an assist. Zappala has picked up seven of Yale’s 20 goals this year.
“He had a great weekend,” said head coach Tim Taylor. “Joey’s a good scorer. I took him out of the center position and made him a wing, and it frees him up to be a little more opportunistic.”
Several Eli players characterized the game as a must-win in a season where the Bulldogs have been searching for answers to tough losses.
“They’re a team that’s struggling too, so it was important,” Zappala said. “Hopefully this will set the standard for the rest of the season.”
Unfortunately for the Catamounts, the game was just as crucial. Vermont remains winless on the season.
Vermont opened the high-scoring contest with a goal from Tim Plant just 2:07 into the game. The goal was one of three power-play scores for Vermont, while Yale scored twice on the man advantage.
Nate Murphy, fed by Nick Shalek and Mike Klema, tied the game at 11:36 when he tapped the puck past Vermont goaltender Travis Russell. But Vermont went into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead after Joey Gasparini fired a laser past Yale goaltender Matt Modelski to give the Catamounts the edge.
UVM’s Russell finished the game with 25 saves, while Modelski picked up 27 for his second win of the season.
Zappala earned his first goal of the night 2:56 into the second period with a wraparound just as time expired on a Scott Mifsud penalty, and picked up an assist four minutes later. His pinpoint pass across the crease found the stick of a waiting Ryan Steeves, who knocked the puck into the back of the net to give Yale a 3-2 lead.
After Vermont tied the game at 3-3 with Evan Stoflet putting in a rebound, Yale went ahead for the final time with a goal from Joe Callahan. The goal came after Russell made an initial save on a shot by captain Vin Hellemeyer, who collected the rebound and fed it out to Callahan.
“On the bench there was so much of a feeling that we were going to keep coming at them,” Callahan said about a Yale team that managed to respond each time Vermont got a goal. “We knew we had to win the game.”
Zappala’s second goal of the night came on a breakaway in which he was fed by Steeves and carried the puck into UVM’s zone before netting it high on Russell’s glove side, making the score 5-3 Yale.
Vermont’s Dan Owens narrowed Yale’s lead to one when he slid the puck past Modelski and over the goal line with less than five minutes to play in the game.
At 18:52 of the contest, Vermont got a tough break when Stoflet was charged for slashing. But a penalty from Yale’s Brad Mills ten seconds later resulted in 4-on-4 play, and the Catamounts opted to pull Russell for the extra skater. Instead, Zappala grabbed the puck just outside Yale’s defensive zone and shot it the length of the ice for the empty netter and hat trick, giving Yale the 6-4 victory.
“We turned it around today and started playing as a team and pulled together,” Zappala said. “Hopefully we can carry this through to Tuesday.”
The Bulldogs will go to Princeton Tuesday night to play their travel partner before hosting the Tigers in New Haven next Saturday. Vermont hopes to find its first win with a Tuesday contest against Massachusetts.