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NHIAA boys’ soccer: No. 2 Hopkinton prevails in 2-1 OT win over No. 3 Gilford in D-III semifinals

  • ABOVE: Hopkinton’s Dustin Rose (6) and Paul Molnar (14) react as Azarius Meister’s (7) tying goal finds the back of the net near the end of regulation during a Division III boys’ soccer semifinal at Laconia High School. BELOW: Gerry Donahue (10) joins teammates in the celebration following the game-tying goal in the second half. Hopkinton went on to beat Gilford, 2-1, in overtime to reach the final. Elizabeth Frantz photos / Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton celebrates Azarius Meister's (7) goal at the end of regulation to tie the game 1-1 during a boys' Division III soccer semifinal at Laconia High School in Laconia on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Hopkinton defeated Gilford, 2-1, in overtime. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton’s Derek West (8) and Gilford’s Tyler Hanf (14) track the ball during a Division III boys’ soccer semifinal matchup on Wednesday at Laconia High School. Hopkinton rallied for a 2-1 win in overtime. Elizabeth FrantzMonitor staff

  • Hopkinton defeats Gilford, 2-1, in overtime during a boys' Division III soccer semifinal at Laconia High School in Laconia on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton's Benny Madden (9) and Gilford's Colton Workman (8) go up for a header during a boys' Division III soccer semifinal at Laconia High School in Laconia on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Hopkinton defeated Gilford, 2-1, in overtime. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton's Paul Molnar (14) goes after a loose ball during a boys' Division III soccer semifinal at Laconia High School in Laconia on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Hopkinton defeated Gilford, 2-1, in overtime. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton's Derek West (8) and Gilford's Gerry Donahue (10) go up for a header during a boys' Division III soccer semifinal at Laconia High School in Laconia on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Hopkinton defeated Gilford, 2-1, in overtime. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton's Max Rossignol (19) puts a stop to Gilford's Tyler Hanf's (14) charge during a boys' Division III soccer semifinal at Laconia High School in Laconia on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Hopkinton defeated Gilford, 2-1, in overtime. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, November 02, 2017

LACONIA – Wednesday’s Division III semifinal between the Hopkinton and Gilford boys’ soccer teams was a clash of one of the league’s top scoring offenses against the toughest defense.

Offense prevailed in the end, but it nearly took all 80 minutes of regulation for No. 2 Hopkinton to tie the game and then defeat No. 3 Gilford, 2-1, in overtime.

Azarius Meister scored to force overtime in the 78th minute and Paul Molnar notched the game-winning goal seven minutes later for the win, sending the defending champion Hawks (17-2) back to the finals for the fourth time in the last five years. They’ll face No. 1 Derryfield (17-0) for the state title at Southern New Hampshire University on Saturday at 1:45 p.m.

“We knew coming in that this was going to be difficult,” Hopkinton Coach Scott Zipke said. “(Gilford) plays defense well … and we really wanted to take it to them in the first half but we really backed off. We let them run at us, and that was not what we were looking to do.”

The Golden Eagles (15-4) came out firing five shots on goal in the first half. Tyler Hanf received a touch pass from Patrick O’Connor directly in front of the net and drilled it in to give Gilford a 1-0 lead.

Gilford defended that lead for almost the entire second half. Looking back, Gilford Coach Dave Pinkham said there were enough opportunities that his team should have had a greater advantage going into halftime.

“Our nemesis all year is we have a hard time scoring goals,” Pinkham said. “In the first half we had so many opportunities there and we just couldn’t finish. That one goal and if we stuck another then we would have been a little bit more relaxed. In the second half it was going to be about if we could defend and keep them off the board.”

The Eagles came out for the second half with a 1-0 lead and leaned on their defense that allowed only eight goals all season entering the semifinals. Hopkinton typically runs two strikers but added a third about midway through the second half.

Meister jogged onto the field, and with an extra forward up top the Hawks didn’t give Gilford another look at the net.

Finally, with 2:40 remaining on the clock, Max Rossignol drove a free kick diagonally across the box to the left of the net. The kick was taken from about 35 yards out and sailed over a wall of Gilford players. The ball skipped around in a scrum in front of the net where Hawks outnumbered Eagles. Meister was on the ground and swung his leg out toward the ball and watched it roll into the net.

“I was just hoping for the best of luck, and next thing I know it’s in the net,” Meister said.

In the moment it took for Meister to kick the ball into the goal, momentum had entirely shifted to the Hawks, convinced they would seal the game in overtime.

Just over three minutes into the overtime period, Corey Breault sent a corner kick into the box. Another scramble ensued and Gilford keeper Ethan Warren made three point-blank saves to keep the Eagles alive. But it was only for another second as Paul Molnar found the right bounce and poked another shot toward the net, this time skipping by Warren and into the goal.

“Max had three shots and goalie was blocking them all and then it just popped right out to me, and there was no one in front of me by then,” Molnar said.

The Hawks hope to carry this momentum into the first half Saturday against Derryfield and outscored its last three opponents 16-1 on its march to the final round.

Zipke tipped his cap to the Gilford squad and its stout defense. Through the first half and most of the second, the Eagles didn’t allow the Hawks to create many chances near the net. Hopkinton was forced to take shots from distance with several sailing over the net.

Keeping the ball under control and calm in the offensive end will be an emphasis heading into Saturday.

“It was a little bit frustrating to not enact our game plan the way we wanted to in the first half, but I’m really proud of the way the guys turned it around in the second half,” Zipke said. “Hopefully we can play the ball around on the ground so there’s less shots from 30 yards out so it doesn’t go over as much. We eventually started to keep the ball on the ground and it was much more controlled.”

Derryfield is going for the perfect season and its first championship in Division III after winning four in a row from 2012 to 2015 in Division IV. The Hawks intend to keep their dominance of the division alive with back-to-back titles. They defeated Stevens in a tight 1-0 match to win the championship last season.

Derryfield shut out Hopkinton, 4-0, in their only meeting of the regular season on Sept. 26.

Before the second semifinal match began, Molnar expected his team would draw undefeated Derryfield in the final round. The Cougars defeated No. 4 Raymond, 7-1.

“We’re pumped,” said Molnar, a junior. “Derryfield is very good team so it will be a great match.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)