By TRISTEN BIANCO
After a rough month of soccer, the Wildcats ended October on a high note with a two-game win streak, defeating the Hartford Hawks at home on ‘Senior Night.’ While the ‘Cats honored their seniors, the game’s hero was a freshman, Chris Arling, whose double-overtime goal broke the stalemate and secured the 2-1 conference win.
The Wildcats’ victory gave improves their record to an impressive 10-3-3 on the year. Hartford entered Friday night’s contest 4-7-5 on the year, and is still winless in the American East.
Right from the start, UNH was under attack by an aggressive Hawks offense. In the first 4 minutes, Hartford netted a goal, giving the away team the lead.
“We didn’t help ourselves the way we played the first twenty minutes,” head coach Marc Hubbard said after the game. “It was a matter of [matching Hartford’s physicality] and being able to play through their pressure. We obviously didn’t do a good job of that early on.”
UNH committed eight total fouls in the first half, allowing Hartford to set up four goal-scoring opportunities, but the Wildcat defense stifled the Hawks and kept them from capitalizing on their chances.
Despite most the first half being marked by missed opportunities, UNH was able to bring some life to their game. With back-to-back shots in the final 15 minutes of the first half by Chris Arling and Chris Wingate, the Wildcats headed to halftime on a positive note, though they were still down 1-0.
The ‘Cats ended period one with 6 total shots and 3 saves by redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper, Andrew Pesci. The Hawks outshot UNH with 7 total shots.
The second half saw a far different Wildcats team. Within the beginning minutes of the second period, two shots were taken, both nearly placed in the back of the net. Finally, on a third strike from the foot of Fazal Nabi, UNH was on the scoreboard, tying the game 1-1.
UNH was not satisfied with just a tying goal. In the 40th minute, Chris Arling had back-to-back strikes, accounting for 2 of his 6 second-half shots. Neither team was able to score for the remainder of regulation, however, and the ‘Cats and Hawks headed into overtime.
Overtime began fast-paced and each team aggressively attacked the net. In an attempt to put one in the back of the net, UNH’s top scorer Chris Wingate was injured and had to leave the game. Wingate had assisted Nabi’s goal in the second half, and gave Nabi another great feed, but the senior’s shot went just over the net and Wingate went down with an ankle injury.
“I think he’s okay,” Hubbard said after the game and Wingate concurred with his head coach after the contest that the injury should not be serious.
With the clock winding down, UNH’s top scorer out and only 2 minutes left in the second overtime, it appeared as though the game would end in a 1-1 draw. But Arling took the reins on a last minute scoring opportunity.
Getting the ball at midfield, Arling used his speed to break away from the defense. The freshman was able to beat Hartford’s keeper one-on-one, firing a shot to the bottom right of the net to lift the Wildcat’s to a 2-1 victory. Wingate’s summation of the game, and its impact on the team, was simple.
“We want to get back [to our] winning ways,” Arling said after the game. “Our seniors got to enjoy a win on their big night. They really deserve it, they’ve put in a lot of hard work and so has the rest of the team.”
The Wildcats host the Vermont Catamounts on Wednesday, Nov. 4 to end the regular season. Friday’s victory secured UNH a spot in the American East Tournament.
Wildcats edge Hartford Hawks in double OT Thriller
By TRISTEN BIANCO