Pinkham’s first goal of season lifts Wildcats in finale

  • University of New Hampshire junior Chris Pinkham, a 2017 Concord High graduate, celebrates his goal in the 2021 America East men’s soccer championship game in Durham at Wildcat Stadium on April 17, 2021. UNH beat Vermont, 2-0, to win its third-straight AE title. CHINA WONG / UNHWildcats.com

  • University of New Hampshire junior Chris Pinkham, a 2017 Concord High graduate, celebrates his goal in the 2021 America East men's soccer championship game in Durham at Wildcat Stadium on April 17, 2021. UNH beat Vermont, 2-0, to win its third-straight AE title. CHINA WONG—UNHWildcats.com

  • University of New Hampshire junior Chris Pinkham (right), a 2017 Concord High graduate, delivers a cross during the 2021 America East men’s soccer championship game at Wildcat Stadium on April 17. CHINA WONG / UNHWildcats.com

  • The University of New Hampshire men’s soccer team celebrates after its 2-0 win against Vermont in the 2021 America East men’s soccer championship game in Durham at Wildcat Stadium on April 17. CHINA WONG / UNHWildcats.com

UNHWildcats.com
Published: 4/19/2021 9:48:04 AM

DURHAM – Chris Pinkham picked a fine time to notch his first goal of the season, opening the scoring late in the first half of the America East men’s soccer championship game on Saturday in Wildcat Stadium.

The goal stood up as the game-winner, Victor Menudier continued his torrid tournament with a second half tally and Alejandro Robles notched his second straight shutout to lead the University of New Hampshire, ranked No. 10 in the country, to a 2-0 win over Vermont and its third straight league championship.

The Wildcats are only the third team in league history to win as many as three consecutive titles.

And now comes the fun part.

UNH grabbed America East’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division 1 men’s soccer tournament and will learn the draw for the tournament in a Selection Show on Monday at noon.

The Wildcats have established themselves as regulars in the NCAAs – this will be their fourth straight appearance – and are looking to make a run at a national championship.

“I mean, from day one, that’s been our goal in the back of our minds,” Pinkham said. “We knew it was going to be sweet to win this one, obviously, and get there. But it’s what can we do nationally. What can we do in front of the whole country?”

In this unique and odd season that was moved from the fall to the spring because of the pandemic and in which teams and coaches had to worry about COVID-19 testing and fielding healthy teams as much as dealing with opponents, UNH put up a 6-0-1 regular season and won a pair of America East tournament games at home, both 2-0, over Hartford in the semifinals and then Vermont.

The NCAA tournament field has been cut down to 36 teams. UNH held a lofty spot in the rankings and might have been selected as one of the 12 at-large teams to make the tourney no matter what happened in the America East event.

To leave nothing to chance, the Wildcats needed to win the league tournament to make sure of things.

A pair of impressive games – offensively and defensively - took care of that.

Pinkham’s goal Saturday came with less than four minutes left in the first half off assists from Diego Toribio and Sam Henneberg.

Pinkham – a junior and one of two former Concord High standouts who are regulars in the UNH lineup along with redshirt freshman defender Liam Bennett – had been waiting for his first goal. He had an assist in the semifinal win.

“I’ve had chances throughout the season and in my head I’ve been super frustrated,” Pinkham said. “I’ve always had the belief, ‘It’s coming. It’s coming. Just put your head down and keep working hard.’ ... It paid off and it came in the championship game. I’m thrilled and just happy I could contribute and help the team win.”

Menudier added the insurance goal in the second half. He scored both UNH goals in the win over Hartford and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Menudier’s first goal in Thursday’s semifinal win over Hartford, also came late in the first half, with just over two minutes to go. It, too, gave UNH a boost going into the break.

“It makes you feel a lot better, that’s for sure,” said coach Marc Hubbard. “You can take a deep breath a little bit. But it’s not like we’re going in at half and it’s a ‘we’ve got to protect the lead and sit in type of thing.’ We have to put the gas on a little more and improve on what didn’t do well in the first half.”

They got the second goal again on Saturday and held off the Catamounts.

The Wildcats have scored 22 goals for the season (2.44 per game) and have allowed sixc (.67 per contest). In the last six games they have scored 16 and allowed three.

“We’ve been able to score goals this year,” Hubbard said. “We knew our attack was going to be improved and now it seems like we’re shoring up our defending as well at the right time.”

The title

Menudier, Robles, Henneberg and Yannick Bright were named to the All-Championship team.

Menudier had three goals in the regular season and then the three more in the two tournament games.

UNH had not won an America East tournament title before the present streak began with a 2018 championship.

Henneberg assisted on both goals in the championship game and also had an assist in the semifinal game.

The Wildcats improved to 33-1-5 in games played in Wildcat Stadium.

The NCAA Tournament

Because of the pandemic, all tournament games will be played in the Carey, N.C. area.

The tournament begins with first-round games on April 29.

Second round games are May 2, third round May 6 and quarterfinals May 10.

The College Cup, including the semifinals and finals, are set for May 14 and May 17 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Carey.




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