DURHAM, N.H. - Sophomore Brendan Hankard (Glastonbury, Conn.) scored with 2:32 left in the second overtime period to propel the University of New Hampshire men's soccer team to a thrilling 5-4 double-overtime victory over Hofstra University Sunday afternoon at Lewis Fields.
With the win, the Wildcats clinched the sixth and final playoff spot for next week's America East tournament and will travel to face No. 3 Towson in the first round on Wednesday (11/7) at 1p.m. The 'Cats needed to beat the Pride after learning that Albany had beaten Vermont, 5-2 earlier in the day.
Hankard, who finished with two goals on the day, scored the game-winner after wrestling a crossing pass from UNH's Nicola Chicco (Claymont, Del.) away from Pride keeper Justin Varrone at the top right corner of the penalty box. Hankard then collected the loose ball in the middle of the box and rifled a shot past a Hofstra defender for the game-winner.
Hankard's goal completed a comeback from a 4-2 first half deficit for the 'Cats, who also rallied from a two-goal deficit in defeating Drexel, 3-2 in overtime last Friday. UNH is also now 4-0-3 in overtime games this season.
UNH began the scoring on a goal by Tyler Jackson (Amherst, NH) just 8:52 into the match. Jackson collected a touch pass from Matt Globe (Barrington, NH) and poked a shot past a frozen Varrone from 15 yards out to put UNH up, 1-0. Hofstra responded with a tally from Hughroy Daley just 32 seconds after Jackson's goal to tie it. The Pride took a 2-1 lead at 20:15 when Arni Gunnarsson grounded one past Wildcat keeper Chad Green (Canyon, Texas) low and to the left.
Hankard scored his first of the match on a header at 23:32 to knot the game at 2-2. Hofstra regained the lead at 31:55 when Patrick Geraghty scored off a direct kick from 20 yards out after a UNH foul. The Pride increased their lead to 4-2 when Shaun Higgins took advantage of a Wildcat turnover in front and chipped a shot over Green at 41:39.
UNH crept back to within one at halftime on freshman Logan Lee's (Racine, Wis.) fourth goal of the season at 43:06. Lee took a feed from senior Ryan DiNunzio (Kenmore, NY) down the right side and hammered a shot off the crossbar and in to make it 4-3 Hofstra.
UNH scored the only goal of the second half on a goal by Chicco at 69:39. Junior Josh McGeachey (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) directed a crossing pass onto the foot of Chicco, who controlled it and found the back of the net from 15 yards out.
Josh Hareld (North Kingstown, R.I.) finished with two assists for the 'Cats while co-captain Doug Lawver (Doylestown, Pa.) also recorded an assists
Green finished with eight saves in picking up the win while Varrone stopped four shots for the Pride. The Wildcats outshot Hofstra, 33-23, including 8-4 in the overtime periods.
With the loss, Hofstra finishes as the No. 5 seed and will travel to play No. 4 Northeastern, also on Wednesday. Top-seeded Boston University and No. 2 Hartford each received first-round byes and will host semifinal matchups on Saturday (11/10). UNH is 0-1 against Towson this season, falling to the Tigers at Towson Center Field Oct. 26, 3-0.
Note: Before the game, the Wildcats honored the five seniors who played their final home game. They are seniors Tyler Tibbs (Beaverton, Ore.), co-captain Shaun O'Neil (Wrentham, Mass.), Ryan DiNunzio (Kenmore, NY), Ken Hayner (Charlton, NY) and Andy Karam (Schenectaday, NY).